from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 1
January 5, 2004


For undisclosed reasons, Attorney General John Ashcroft last week recused himself from further participation in the ongoing investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of the name of an undercover CIA officer, Valerie Plame, by columnist Robert Novak last July.

Why did the Attorney General take this step at this time?

"I can't tell you that," said Deputy Attorney General James Comey.

"It's fair to say that an accumulation of facts throughout the course of the investigation over the last several months has led us to this point. What those facts are and where they tell us we're going is stuff I can't get into and that I would hope you would not speculate about," Mr. Comey said.

The Justice Department also announced the appointment of a special counsel from within the Justice Department (but not an outside, independent counsel) to lead the continuing investigation.

See the transcript of the December 30 Justice Department press briefing on the matter here:


The law that makes the unauthorized disclosure of a clandestine intelligence officer's identity a federal crime under certain circumstances is the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982.

The historical background of the Act and its legal scope are helpfully explored in a recent report from the Congressional Research Service.

The author writes that "There do not appear to be any published cases involving prosecutions under this Act."

But as previously noted (Secrecy News, 10/01/03), a CIA employee named Sharon Scranage in 1985 pled guilty to two counts under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

See "Intelligence Identities Protection Act" by Elizabeth B. Bazan, CRS, October 3, 2003:

Direct public access to CRS publications like this one is not authorized by Congress.


A coalition of news organizations led by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has petitioned the Supreme Court for permission to intervene in the case of an Algerian national who was detained after September 11.

In particular, the groups are challenging the extraordinary secrecy that has surrounded nearly every aspect of the case, M.K.B. v. Warden et al.

"By participating in this case, the media aim to ensure that the proper balance is drawn between secrecy in the name of national security and the public's right to know," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee.

The petition to intervene is available here:

See also "News Groups Seek to Open Secret Case" by Linda Greenhouse, New York Times, January 5:


At a time when crucial matters of national policy are at stake, the current Congress has in important respects been missing in action.

"[E]ver since it passed the USA Patriot Act after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress has stood by in an alarming silence while a fabric of new law governing the balance between liberty and security has been woven by the other two branches of government," observes the Washington Post in a penetrating editorial today.

See "Silence on the Hill...," January 5:

But this Congress has done worse than just stand by. It has also acted recklessly and without due diligence to dismantle some of the existing checks and balances that wiser legislators imposed after careful consideration.

See, for example, "Too Much Power," another Washington Post editorial, dated January 4:

Even conservative analysts sympathetic to the Bush Administration sense that something is awry.

"The American people cannot be expected simply to give the government the benefit of the doubt forever, agreeing that seemingly extralegal measures are justified," writes law professor Thomas F. Powers. "Open, robust, and if necessary prolonged debate of the issues is not to be feared."

See his article "Due Process for Terrorists?" in The Weekly Standard, January 12, 2004 here:


The contours of one man's career as a CIA clandestine signals intelligence officer are traced in an internal Agency resume outlining the officer's experience from 1965 to 1993.

Clandestine collection of signals intelligence took this officer around the world, and included service in the former Division D of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, the Office of SIGINT Operations in the CIA Directorate of Science and Technology, as well as the joint CIA-NSA Special Collection Service. Along the way, he gained "good working knowledge of Spanish, Russian and Hungarian."

See his 1993 resume (personal identifiers have been deleted) here:


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

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