from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
December 18, 2000


In an extraordinary letter to the Pentagon, Senator Robert Kerrey has challenged the strict secrecy of the government's nuclear warfighting plan known as the Single Integrated Operational Plan, or SIOP.

The SIOP identifies the specific targets to be destroyed by U.S. nuclear weapons in a nuclear war. By defining U.S. "requirements" for nuclear weapons, the SIOP in turn determines the size and structure of U.S. nuclear forces. Yet this fundamental component of U.S. national security policy is altogether exempt from accountability.

"For some time I have been asking for details of the [nuclear weapons] targeting plan but I have been told on every occasion that I am not entitled to know," Senator Kerrey wrote to Defense Secretary Cohen, in a letter dated October 11 that has not previously been reported. "I believe strongly that no member of Congress should be denied this information. Further, I believe the decision to limit access to the targeting plan does not make the United States more secure; it makes us less secure."

Senator Kerrey described the various pretexts by which his own access to the SIOP had been blocked by Pentagon officials, and he asked Secretary Cohen "to change the policy so that all members of Congress can receive a briefing providing them with the details of our nuclear weapons targeting plan."

"The responsibility for setting our defense policy rests with the elected, civilian representatives of the American people. But how can we provide the policy guidance that is needed when we are not given the information we need to decide if our current course of action is the correct one."

The unstated alternative is that nuclear weapons are intrinsically incompatible with democratic procedures.

See Senator Kerrey's letter here:


"The growing reach of international crime poses threats to American citizens and American interests, both at home and abroad. Illegal activity from terrorism to trafficking in arms, drugs or humans violates our values and threatens our safety. Intellectual property theft, financial fraud and corruption also can endanger our prosperity, and undercut public confidence in democracy and free markets around the world," according to a White House press statement.

Last week, the White House released an "International Crime Threat Assessment." It is the first such document to be produced on an unclassified basis. A classified assessment was produced last year.

"The new assessment highlights the global dimensions of international crime and the ways this pervasive problem threatens U.S. interests." It was prepared as part of an initiative that began with the 1995 Presidential Decision Directive 42.

The assessment is posted here:


The National Security Archive has prepared an interesting new collection of declassified documents from the debate of the 1960s and 1970s over anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems.

"These formerly top secret documents bring perspective to the problems -- such as technical failures and criticisms from allies and enemies alike -- that plague current efforts to deploy national missile defense," said Archive nuclear historian William Burr.

The new document collection can now be found here:


In a valedictory address on the final day of the 106th Congress, Senator Daniel P. Moynihan covered lots of bases, but gave special emphasis to his abiding concerns over government secrecy.

He reiterated his often-expressed view of the CIA's failure to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union, touched again on the question of whether President Truman knew of Venona, and raised many other issues that will be familiar to those who have heard him speak in recent years.

But at least some of his points are not diminished by repetition, particularly since there is no else in the Senate to make them.

"I have tried to lay out the organizational dynamics which produce ever larger and more intrusive secrecy regimes," he said. "I have sought to suggest how damaging this can be to true national security interests.

"But this is a modest achievement.... I fear that rationality is but a weak foil to the irrational. In the end we shall need character as well as conviction."

See Senator Moynihan's "Reminiscence and Farewell" here:


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