from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
August 24, 2001


In its lead editorial today, the Washington Post today eloquently argued against the pending legislation that would make the unauthorized disclosure of classified information a felony.

"One trouble with creating a blanket criminalization of classified leaks is that it gives the executive branch almost unchecked authority to remove information from public discussion," the Post editors wrote. "Such unchecked power would be dangerous even if overclassification weren't rampant." See the Post editorial entitled "No More Secrecy Bills" here:

Meanwhile, the St. Petersburg Times in St. Petersburg, Florida today came out in vigorous opposition to the anti-leak proposal. Significantly, both Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss are from Florida.

"If Graham really believes government needs to be held accountable for its actions, he should help bury this legislation," the St. Petersburg Times editors proclaimed. See:

In another new wrinkle, House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner sent a letter to the House Intelligence Committee last week preemptively insisting on his Committee's authority to consider any legislation on criminalizing leaks before it is adopted.

"I wanted to take this opportunity to assert that the House Committee on the Judiciary would seek immediate referral of any legislation that incorporates criminal provisions addressing the unauthorized disclosure of classified information," wrote Chairman Sensenbrenner.

Though he did not categorically state opposition to the legislation, Sensenbrenner's action should tend to slow its momentum and complicate its passage.

Further, Chairman Sensenbrenner wrote, "it is my strong preference that any anti-leaks legislation be considered separate and apart from general authorization bills." Such a step would take the measure off the fast track that the Intelligence Authorization Act is on and force Congress to consider the legislation on its slender merits.

See Chairman Sensenbrenner's August 13 letter here:


Publication of declassified U.S. government documents from the Korean War has renewed controversy in Korea over U.S. Air Force aerial attacks near the village of Nogun-ri in 1950, which led to the deaths of around 100 civilians.

The official U.S. report on the Nogun-ri case earlier this year was inconclusive about whether the attacks had taken place. It stated: "No U.S. Air Force veteran that the U.S. Review Team interviewed participated in, or had any knowledge of anyone participating in, the strafing of civilians in the vicinity of.No Gun Ri in late July 1950.... Strafing may have occurred near Nogun-ri the last week of July 1950 and could have injured or killed Korean civilians but [...] any such air strikes were not deliberate attacks on Korean civilians."

Yet the newly published documents refer plainly to strafing of refugees. They were made widely available last week on the web site of Henry Holt Publishers, which will soon publish "The Bridge at No Gun Ri," a book on the Nogun-ri case written by the Associated Press team who first reported in 1999 that American troops had killed civilians in the Korean War. See:

The new disclosures created a stir in Korea. The Korea Herald in Seoul, which first reported on the matter August 21, also indicated that Nogun-ri survivors will file suit against U.S. agencies next week under the Freedom of Information Act, alleging non-compliance with the Act's requirements. In addition, the Committee for Unveiling Truth about the Nogun-ri Massacre will reportedly seek a congressional hearing on their concerns.

Questions about the strafing of refugees near Nogun-ri were previously discussed at a January 11, 2001 Pentagon press briefing on the incident. See:


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

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