from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 66
July 16, 2004


Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Trent Lott (R-MS), Bob Graham (D-FL) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) yesterday introduced bipartisan legislation to establish an Independent National Security Classification Board that would review current classification policies, make recommendations for reform, and serve as a neutral forum for reexamining disputed classification decisions.

"We need clear standards and procedures to ensure a reasonable balance between the need for citizens to have access to information and the need to protect national security," said Sen. Wyden in a news release.

"This unbiased, independent Board will apply some common sense to the national security classification system," he said.

The legislation (S. 2672) would authorize $2 million for the first year of the Board's operations. The three-member Board would be named by the President, the Senate and the House. Each would require Senate confirmation.

But in a decisive limitation, the Board would not have independent statutory authority to compel declassification by a recalcitrant agency.

See Senator Wyden's July 15 thoughtful statement introducing the bill here:

One measure of the difficulty of achieving classification reform through this kind of process is that a very similar approach has already been tried without success.

In the Fiscal Year 2001 Intelligence Authorization Act, Congress previously enacted and the President signed into law a provision that established something called the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB).

Its functions and authorities, which closely resemble those of the Board now proposed in the Senate, are set forth here:

But incredibly, the members of the Public Interest Declassification Board were never named by the President and Congress, so it has never convened.

Perhaps the Wyden-Lott proposal will fare better. Before it was even introduced, it had already garnered editorial support from The Washington Post (July 13) and The New Republic (July 26).


Recently acquired reports of the Congressional Research Service include the following:

"The Middle East Peace Talks," updated July 6, 2004:

"Major Tax Issues in the 108th Congress," updated July 12, 2004:

"Nuclear Nonproliferation Issues," updated June 21, 2004:

"Terrorist 'Dirty Bombs': A Brief Primer," updated April 1, 2004:


Secrecy News (07/14/04) should have noted that the TV program Get Smart was co-created by Buck Henry. The two episodes featuring The Claw, entitled The Diplomat's Daughter and The Amazing Harry Hoo, are credited to writers Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso, not Mel Brooks. Gardner and Caruso no longer speak to one another, Secrecy News is informed, and Caruso will not discuss the show. Thanks to several alert readers, M and subject matter expert Carl Birkmeyer.

The Central Intelligence Agency's refusal to alter the spelling of the South Korean President's name from "No Mu-hyon" to "Roh Moo-hyun," as requested by South Korea (SN, 07/14/04), is not due to ignorance or malice.

Rather, the CIA is adhering to what is called the McCune-Reischauer [not Reischauser] system of Romanization of the Korean language. First published in 1939, the McCune-Reischauer system is acknowledged to be an imperfect compromise, but it remains the reigning standard among Western students of Korea.

Periodic efforts by the Korean government to dislodge McCune-Reischauer in favor of what it says is a more accurate system of pronunciation and transliteration have not met with much success so far.

The Korean Overseas Information Service told the Korea Herald this week it would make another attempt to persuade the CIA to change its spelling of the President's name.


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

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