from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 105
December 4, 2003


The FBI this week commenced operation of a new Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) to aid law enforcement officials in the identification of suspected terrorists.

"When a patrol officer runs a name check query on a subject through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the system will now include a check for any known or suspected links to terrorism," according to a November 28 FBI message circulated through the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS). A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

Initial operation of the TSC will be "limited -- records will be phased in to ensure the identities of subjects are in fact terrorists," the memo said. See:

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) criticized the delay in fully activating the new name check system. Democrats in the House Select Committee on Homeland Security spelled out a list of ten essential requirements they said the system must fulfill. See:

Elsewhere, the prospect of integrating intelligence and criminal databases was already raising eyebrows and anxieties.

A news story about Washington State's LINX database reports that "The LINX system's unprecedented power to catch criminals and thwart terrorists also carries a serious potential for abuse of civil rights, law enforcement observers say."

See "'Nobody is safe from' scrutiny of program" by Paul Shukovsky and Mike Barber, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 29:

A sober assessment of the benefits and challenges of harnessing information technology to prevent terrorism and protect civil liberties was offered this week by the Markle Foundation here:


The FBI set aside its own strictures against disclosing so-called "Law Enforcement Sensitive" information in order to rebut an article that appeared in the New York Times.

The Times had reported correctly on November 23 that the FBI was engaged in surveillance of antiwar demonstrators, citing an October 15 FBI intelligence bulletin.

The FBI objected to what it said were the "implications" of the Times story, and so it took the unusual step of publishing the entire intelligence bulletin, even though the document is designated "Law Enforcement Sensitive," and would be exempt from disclosure if requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

A copy of the FBI rebuttal with the newly disclosed intelligence bulletin is posted here:


With the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, some unsettled declassification issues arose yet again, along with some new insights and observations.

A diverse groups of authors wrote a letter in the New York Review of Books calling on the CIA and the Defense Department "to observe the spirit and letter of the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Act by releasing all relevant records on the activities of a career CIA operations officer named George E. Joannides, who died in 1990."

Jefferson Morley, writing in the Washington Monthly, tells "how the quashing of an honest CIA investigator helped launch 40 years of JFK conspiracy theories and cynicism about the Feds." See "The Good Spy" in the December issue:

The National Security Archive reports that shortly before his murder, President Kennedy spoke of the possibility of a secret meeting in Havana with Fidel Castro. See "Kennedy Sought Dialogue with Cuba":


In a new White Paper on nonproliferation, the People's Republic of China declared its commitment to the abolition of weapons of mass destruction.

China stands for "the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of all kinds of WMD, including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and resolutely opposes the proliferation of such weapons and their means of delivery. China does not support, encourage or assist any country to develop WMD and their means of delivery," the December 3 White Paper said.

The U.S. government applauded China's stance.

"We welcome the efforts by China to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, missiles, conventional weapons and related material and technologies through stricter export control regulations," said State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli.


"The polygraph examination was conducted in a small locked room."

It may sound like Hemingway, if he had applied to work for a U.S. intelligence agency.

But it actually comes from an unusual first person account of the process of applying for employment at the National Security Agency, from the initial interview to the psychological exam to the background investigation and the polygraph test.

The author, writing under the pseudonym Ralph J. Perro, provides a detailed, chatty and somewhat irreverent narrative of the stages of evaluation of incoming NSA employees. In his case, the three and a half month clearance process led to his rejection on unspecified security grounds.

See "Interviewing With An Intelligence Agency (or, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Fort Meade)," November 2003:


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

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