from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 39
April 23, 2004


U.S. government photos of coffins of soldiers killed in Iraq ended up on the front pages of newspapers around the country after they were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Russ Kick of, who posted them on his website here (temporarily down, presumably due to excess traffic):

Pentagon officials expressed dismay at the release, and halted any further such releases.

"We don't want the remains of our service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice to be the subject of any kind of attention that is unwarranted or undignified," said Deputy Under Secretary of Defense John Molino.

The odd implication of the Pentagon clamp down is that the military photographers who took the photos were somehow being disrespectful. But that view is not borne out by examination of the published photos, which are perfectly dignified.

"I would make the argument that trying to hide the photos of these people who gave everything for their country is actually dishonoring them," Mr. Kick told the Seattle Times. "They went over there in all of our names and died, and then when they come back home, they're hidden behind a curtain. I think that's wrong."


Restrictions on the publication of unclassified scientific research and on the participation of foreign nationals in such research are documented in a new study from the Association of American Universities.

"Over the past three years, universities across the country have reported a significant increase of situations where a sponsor has included... language that either restricts the dissemination of research results or the use of foreign nationals without prior approval on certain research projects," the report states.

The authors analyzed 138 instances of such restrictions, mostly imposed by Defense Department funders.

"The most disturbing outcome revealed by the data is the substantial negative impact on the conduct of basic and applied research of value to the nation which normally takes place in institutions of higher education in the United States."

In the best case, such restrictions typically cause delay in the negotiation of contract agreements. In the worst case, they drive scientists away from investigation of contentious topics, the authors found.

"Faculty and researchers are often forced to turn their attention and talents toward research projects that do not involve these difficulties," according to the study.

The authors said that such restrictions run contrary to the policy enunciated in the 1985 National Security Decision Directive 189, which directed that unclassified research should remain unrestricted.

See "Restrictions on Research Awards: Troublesome Clauses," report of a task force of the Association of American Universities and the Council on Governmental Relations, transmitted April 8, 2004:

The new study was described in "Reports Examine Academe's Role in Keeping Secrets" by David Malakoff, Science Magazine, April 23.

Meanwhile, however, a report from the Defense Department Inspector General (also noted by Malakoff) found that "one university granted foreign nationals access to unclassified export-controlled technology without proper authorization."

"Unauthorized access to unclassified export-controlled technology could allow foreign nations to counter or reproduce the technology and thus reduce the effectiveness of the technology, significantly alter program direction, or degrade combat effectiveness," the Inspector General warned.

See "Export-Controlled Technology at Contractor, University, and Federally Funded Research and Development Center Facilities," DoD Inspector General, March 25, 2004:

Two recently updated Congressional Research Service reports address related issues of controlling scientific information.

"Balancing Scientific Publication and National Security Concerns: Issues for Congress," by Dana A. Shea, updated February 2, 2004:

"'Sensitive But Unclassified' and Other Federal Security Controls on Scientific and Technical Information: History and Current Controversy," by Genevieve J. Knezo, udpated February 20, 2004:


The history and the application of the War Powers Act are reviewed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

"During the Vietnam war, Congress searched for a way to assert authority to decide when the United States should become involved in a war or the armed forces be utilized in circumstances that might lead to hostilities. On November 7, 1973, it passed the War Powers Resolution over the veto of President Nixon."

"The record of the War Powers Resolution since its enactment has been mixed, and after 30 years it remains controversial."

The new CRS report examines the provisions of the War Powers Resolution, its use from 1973 through October 2001, and proposed amendments to it.

See "The War Powers Resolution: After Thirty Years" by Richard F. Grimmett, March 11, 2004:

See also a related CRS Issue Brief entitled "War Powers Resolution: Presidential Compliance," updated March 16, 2004:

Direct public access to CRS products like these is not authorized by the U.S. Congress.


The outbreak of the SARS virus in Ontario, Canada in spring of 2003 caught the Canadian public health system unprepared and ill-equipped to respond. An official Canadian Commission report dissects the failures and proposes remedial measures.

"The report is unflattering," a email correspondent wrote to Secrecy News, "but it is an exceptionally good assessment of a public health infrastructure under duress."

"You could swap certain words, like 'U.S.' for 'Ontario' or 'anthrax' for 'SARS,' and it would be a familiar story in some ways."

On the other hand, the Canadian report does not include an analysis of "the intersections of law enforcement and public health that are important for a competent bioterrorism response. We can only learn so much about intentional events by studying unintentional ones."

See the SARS Commission Interim Report "SARS and Public Health in Ontario," April 15, 2004 (230 pages, 925 KB PDF file):


Over the past week, President Bush has repeatedly urged the renewal of the USA Patriot Act, portions of which are set to expire in 2005, and he has indicated that nothing less than complete and uncritical endorsement of the Act is acceptable.

"The President called for Congress to renew all parts of the USA PATRIOT Act that are scheduled to expire next year," according to an April 19 White House Fact Sheet:

But not everyone in Congress is taking dictation from the White House.

A bill called the Security and Freedom Ensured (SAFE) Act, which was introduced with bipartisan sponsorship, says it would "amend the USA PATRIOT ACT to place reasonable limitations on the use of surveillance and the issuance of search warrants."

The provisions of the SAFE Act were described by a Congressional Research Service analyst in a February 19 report here:

Although the SAFE Act has not yet been considered in Committee, much less come to a vote, the Bush Administration has declared it would veto the measure.


The potential impacts of a terrorist attack involving a dirty bomb, or radiological dispersal device, are considered in a recent report from the Congressional Research Service.

"Terrorist detonation of a dirty bomb... might cause casualties, economic damage, and, potentially, public panic, though experts disagree on the likely magnitude of each of these effects."

See "Radiological Dispersal Devices: Select Issues in Consequence Management" by Dana A. Shea, March 10, 2004:


The role of China in illicit drug trafficking is assessed in a recent "drug intelligence brief" from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

"China is a major source of precursor chemicals necessary for the production of cocaine, heroin, and crystal methamphetamine," the DEA brief said.

"Although China has taken aggressive actions through legislation and regulation of production and exportation of precursor chemicals, extensive action is required to control the illicit diversion and smuggling of precursor chemicals."

See "China: Country Brief," Drug Enforcement Agency, February 2004 (650 KB PDF file):


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday recalled that "as a young member of Congress back in the 1960s, still in my 30s, I was a co-sponsor of the Freedom of Information Act."

"Now we all recognize that that Act causes government officials occasional pain," Rumsfeld said in a speech to the Newspaper Association of America and the American Society of Newspaper Editors, "but in my view, it has been a valuable Act in helping to get the facts to the American people."

"Our great political system needs information to be self-correcting. While excesses and imbalances will inevitably exist for a time, fortunately they tend not to last."

"Ultimately truth prevails," Secretary Rumsfeld said. See:


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

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, send an email message to [email protected] with "subscribe" (without quotes) in the body of the message.

To UNSUBSCRIBE, send a blank email message to [email protected].

OR email your request to [email protected]

Secrecy News is archived at: