from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
August 20, 2001


If Aldrich Ames had not pleaded guilty to espionage in 1994 and if his case had proceeded to trial, a court might have suppressed much of the evidence against him because it was collected without a criminal warrant, thereby placing his conviction in doubt, according to some Justice Department officials.

Though counterintelligence information has never been excluded from the prosecution of a suspected spy in this way, the process of converting a counterintelligence investigation into a criminal case is a delicate one that is fraught with procedural uncertainties.

The General Accounting Office provides a rare glimpse into the ambivalent relations between spyhunters and prosecutors in a report released last week entitled "FBI Intelligence Investigations: Coordination Within Justice on Counterintelligence Criminal Matters is Limited." The text of the report (a 500 kB PDF file) may be found here:


A 500 page manuscript describing China's nuclear weapons program by former Los Alamos official Danny B. Stillman is still being withheld from publication 19 months after it was submitted to the government for pre-publication review to identify information that might be classified.

In briefs filed on Friday, Stillman's attorney Mark S. Zaid argued that the continuing delay in resolving the matter is "an unconstitutional prior restraint" on Stillman's free speech. Mr. Zaid asked the DC District Court to convene a public evidentiary hearing in which the government would be obliged to justify its classification decisions under cross examination.

Following the initial filing of Stillman's lawsuit in June of this year, government reviewers narrowed their opposition to publication substantially. Within two weeks, they released 85% of the text. The remainder is still in contention.

Mr. Stillman's obligation to submit his work for prepublication review stems from the secrecy agreement he signed to gain a security clearance for access to intelligence information as part of his job at Los Alamos. What makes this case rather novel, however, is that most of the information in his manuscript was gathered outside of his employment in private visits to China. The government's attempts to suppress this information therefore represent a significant expansion of its censorship function.

Mr. Zaid's August 17 brief on behalf of Mr. Stillman presents the facts of the case followed by a vigorous argument against the government's open-ended "review." See:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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