from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 37
April 15, 2004


Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet said it will be necessary to conduct a public debate on intelligence spending in order to overcome erratic budgeting practices and to build public support for intelligence.

"This, I think, is a debate that has to be joined quite publicly," Tenet told the 9-11 Commission on April 14.

Up to now, Tenet has not been an advocate of public debate on such matters. It has long been his Agency's position that not even a single total intelligence spending figure can be routinely declassified.

Tenet himself swore under oath last year that public disclosure of the 2002 intelligence budget total would pose an unacceptable threat to national security and would jeopardize intelligence methods.

But in retrospect, it is clear that such budget secrecy has not served the interests of U.S. intelligence. Not only has secrecy impaired public awareness of the role of intelligence, it has left intelligence funds vulnerable to diversion into competing military programs.

"Let's get budgeting on a two- or three-year cycle," Tenet urged, responding to comments from 9-11 Commissioner John F. Lehman. "Let's allow us to build programs in depth. Let's really look at basic expenditures over the course of time. Let's put the metrics in place. But I'll tell you, you can't build this community in fits and starts. It won't happen and the country will suffer. And you know, this, I think, is a debate that has to be joined quite publicly."

"Everybody talks about military capability or law enforcement capability. Well, we sit behind the green door. And for the bang for the buck, the American taxpayer gets a hell of a lot for what we give them."

"And you know, we ought to find a way to talk to the American people about it as well, because I think they'd be supportive," Tenet said.

But so far, "finding a way to talk to the American people" about the comparative benefits of intelligence spending does not include any reference to the amount of funds spent.

DCI Tenet declared under penalty of perjury that disclosing a single total budget number could damage national security and compromise intelligence methods in a March 2003 declaration:

CIA classification officials, who seem to have utterly lost their bearings, even claim that 50 year old intelligence budget figures must remain classified. The subject is in litigation.


A naturalized American citizen who was born in Iran has been improperly denied a security clearance by the Department of Defense because of his country of origin, a lawsuit filed in federal court yesterday alleged.

The plaintiff, Mohsen Nikpour, is an electrical engineer whose employer has classified contracts with the Defense Department.

After the Pentagon initially raised questions about the propriety of clearing Nikpour, the case was turned over to an administrative judge, who ruled in favor of granting a clearance.

That judge determined last year that "In light of all the circumstances presented by the record in this case, it is clearly consistent with the national interest to grant applicant's request for a security clearance."

But in the face of continued Pentagon resistance, the clearance was later denied on appeal.

"There appears to be a blanket policy of denying a security clearance to anyone who has family living in Iran," said attorney Sheldon I. Cohen, who represents Mr. Nikpour.

The lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of Virginia on April 14, asks the court to override the Pentagon and grant the clearance. See:

A February 2, 2004, story in Business Week magazine put the underlying issue this way: "If You Didn't Come Over On The Mayflower, You Can't Get A Clearance: In a rush to tighten security, the U.S. risks losing its high-tech edge in defense."


Like classification, declassification can sometimes be driven by political factors more than by national security considerations.

In the latest example, the Department of Justice spontaneously declassified a secret 1995 memorandum last weekend. The memo became public just in time for Attorney General Ashcroft to use it to challenge the impartiality of its author, then-Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick, who is now a member of the 9-11 Commission.

The newly declassified memo, entitled "Instructions on Separation of Certain Foreign Counterintelligence and Criminal Investigations," is available here:


A relatively new part of the growing thicket of official controls on unclassified information is the category known as "sensitive security information," which refers to restricted information involving transportation security.

The application of "sensitive security information" controls to U.S. Coast Guard information is addressed in this March 26 Coast Guard Q and A (thanks to RT):


American University will host a conference May 14-16 on the impact and implications of controls on "critical infrastructure information."

"Newly implemented Homeland Security regulations place significant new restrictions on Critical Infrastructure Information, including basic information about cities, environmental hazards, transportation and energy," according to the conference announcement.

"Unanswered questions surround what regulations concerning critical infrastructure actually are in effect, how they are enforced and how to protect the public's right to know during crises."

For further information see:

THE TEN MOST WANTED DOCUMENTS OF 2004, a new coalition that "seeks to advance the public's right to know and to reduce secrecy in government," today released its first annual survey of "The Ten Most Wanted Documents."

The survey highlights documents of particular public interest that have nevertheless been withheld from public access.

Today's release was the inaugural event of, which seeks to galvanize public support for open, accountable government.

"We are witnessing a broad expansion of government secrecy that runs counter to our core democratic values," said Rick Blum, coordinator of the new coalition. "We must reverse this course so the public can access the information it needs to hold our government accountable, make our families safer, and generally strengthen democracy."

A report on "the ten most wanted documents" and other information on the new coalition are now available here:


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

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