from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 62
July 7, 2004


Despite extraordinary steps by the Army to limit online public access to a new report on the Iraq war, the study has nevertheless been published without the Army's cooperation.

The Army recently completed a book-length study of Operation Iraqi Freedom entitled "On Point." It is a revealing and fairly critical account of lessons learned from the war.

Last month, the Center for Army Lessons Learned posted the study here:

Incredibly, however, the web version of the Army document is coded in such a way that it cannot be downloaded, or copied, or printed out. It must be read online at the Army site, or not at all.

This may be unprecedented for a government web site. The very notion of a document that cannot be downloaded is antithetical to the web and seems like an artifact from an alternate universe. If the Axis powers had won World War II, the whole internet might look like this.

But in a marvelous feat of textual engineering, the intrepid François Boo of managed to overcome the Army's restrictive coding of the document and to make it publicly available.

It can now be found -- and downloaded or printed -- here:

Among the highlights of the report is the disclosure that the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad was not a spontaneous act of an Iraqi crowd, but was instigated by a U.S. Marine colonel backed by a psychological operations unit (reported in the LA Times July 3).


The judicial process was trumped by the "state secrets privilege" as a whistleblower lawsuit brought by former FBI linguist Sibel Edmonds alleging misconduct at the FBI was dismissed yesterday by a federal court on the unusual grounds that it could not be litigated without compromising sensitive classified information.

"Because the Court finds that the plaintiff is unable to establish her First Amendment, Fifth Amendment and Privacy Act claims without the disclosure of privileged information, nor would the defendants be able to defend against these claims without the same disclosures, the plaintiff's case must be dismissed, albeit with great consternation, in the interests of national security," wrote Judge Reggie B. Walton.

The Court acknowledged that "dismissal of a suit, and the consequent denial of a forum without giving the plaintiff her day in court ... is indeed draconian."

"Denial of the forum provided under the Constitution for the resolution of a drastic remedy that has rarely been invoked," the Judge wrote, quoting from prior case law.

Still, "Mindful of the need for virtual unfettered access to the judicial process in a governmental system integrally linked to the rule of law, the Court nonetheless concludes that the government has properly invoked the state secrets privilege" in this case and that the case must be dismissed.

Among other interesting features, the Court's ruling includes a summary history of the origins of the "state secrets privilege," dating back to the treason trial of Aaron Burr in 1807.

Explaining why he dismissed the case rather than staying it temporarily, Judge Walton opined that "the imminent threat of terrorism will not be eliminated anytime in the foreseeable future, but is an endeavor that will consume our nation's attention indefinitely."

A copy of the July 6 ruling dismissing the case Sibel Edmonds v. U.S. Department of Justice is available here:

Ms. Edmonds's attorney, Mark S. Zaid, said the decision would be appealed.


A provision in the Senate version of the 2005 defense authorization act would create a new exemption from the Freedom of Information Act for unclassified satellite imagery that is acquired by the government from commercial vendors on an exclusive basis.

"The United States often enters into exclusive licensing agreements with commercial satellite operators that prohibit these companies from selling certain unclassified data and imagery, except to the United States and to approved customers," according to Senate report language on the measure.

"Compelled release of such data and imagery by the United States under FOIA defeats the purpose of these licensing agreements, removes any profit motive, and may damage the national security by mandating disclosure to the general public upon request. While the data and imagery could be protected from disclosure under FOIA by classifying them, the United States prefers to keep them unclassified."

For several months during the war in Afghanistan, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency acquired exclusive rights to high-resolution commercial satellite imagery of the country, effectively censoring it.

The new provision in the Senate bill, which awaits a House-Senate conference, would institutionalize this practice.

See the text of the provision and the accompanying report language here:


The Justice Department's Office of Information and Privacy has published an updated, annotated list of judicial rulings in Freedom of Information Act cases. Not all of them are unfavorable to the requester.

See "New FOIA Decisions, April-June 2004":


A decade ago, industrial espionage was often cited as one of the paramount threats to national security. Today it is barely noted, if at all. But the underlying problem is still a concern, says a recent annual report from the National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX).

"Foreign businessmen, scientists, academics, and government officials from more than 90 countries continued targeting sensitive US technologies and corporate trade secrets in both 2002 and 2003, according to a variety of reporting available to the US Counterintelligence (CI) Community," according to the report.

See "Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage--2003," NCIX, February 2004:


A close study of the Chinese board game "go" can provide insights into the distinctive Chinese conception of warfighting, according to a new study published by the Army War College.

Go is the oldest board game in the world. With its emphasis on fluidity and long-term strategy, author David Lai says, it differs from chess (absolute conquest), poker (bluffing and risk-taking), boxing (force on force) and football.

Go players compete, using black and white stones on multiple fronts, to encircle territory on the board, penetrating the other's territory in a dynamic contest that embodies principles articulated by Sun Tzu in his "Art of War."

"A little knowledge and experience of the game of go will be a valuable addition to the American political and military wisdom; and it will take U.S. political and military leaders a long way in understanding the Chinese way of war and diplomacy."

See "Learning From the Stones: A Go Approach to Mastering China's Strategic Concept, Shi," by David Lai, U.S. Army War College, May 2004:


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

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