from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 86
October 1, 2004


The U.S. Senate this week approved the establishment of an Independent National Security Classification Board to review contested classification decisions and to recommend to the President that a particular document be declassified if it sees fit. The President would not be obliged to accept the recommendation.

The amendment creating the new Board, sponsored principally by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), would build upon, and supersede, the Public Interest Declassification Board that was created four years ago but never actually convened. Its nine members would be named by the White House and the Congressional leadership.

The Board "will have specific authority to hear appeals of classification decisions from specified congressional committees," explained Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). "The board would then make a recommendation to the President, which the President could either accept or reject. If the President rejects the board's decision, then the President would have to send a written justification of that decision to Congress."

"It is a very finely balanced compromise that is substantial, real, and preserves the President's right as Commander in Chief to have the final word," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT).

The House has not acted on the matter, which was addressed in the Senate debate on the pending intelligence reform bill. See the transcript of the Senate action on the Independent National Security Classification Board here:


There are more urgent and important questions than whether the size of the intelligence budget should be disclosed. But somehow intelligence budget disclosure cuts to the heart of secrecy policy and intelligence reform in a way that few other such issues do.

That is why reformers such as the 9/11 Commission singled out budget disclosure as a remedy for overclassification. And that is why opponents of the Commission's proposals like Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) have singled it out as a recommendation that must be stopped.

On the Senate floor yesterday, Sen. Stevens worked himself into a lather demanding that the Senate rescind its proposal to declassify the budget total, and he accused its bipartisan sponsors of ignorance.

"Listen to me," he said. "You have not lived with how we have financed the intelligence community. The money is not disclosed. It is put in parts of the budget and you don't know where it is. It rests with Senator Inouye and me, to be honest about it, and we make sure that is what it is. Maybe four people in the House and Senate know where this is. You are telling us to disclose it."

In fact, it was Sen. Stevens who was confused. The Senate budget disclosure proposal is predicated on there being a single direct appropriation for national intelligence. As such, it would not entail clandestine budgeting practices. In fact, such a direct appropriation could not effectively be kept secret.

Sen. Stevens' fiercely argued amendment was temporarily set aside. See:

The persistent notion that budget disclosure even 50 years after the fact would somehow reveal intelligence methods is "absurd," the Washington Post noted in an editorial yesterday. See "Intelligence Failure," September 30:

A sworn affidavit from Acting Director of Central Intelligence John E. McLaughlin asserting the need to withhold such half-century old budget data contained material false statements, we alleged in an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, and it should therefore be stricken from the record. See this September 22 Motion to Strike:

"It will be necessary to submit additional declarations in order to fully and properly address" those allegations, the CIA told the court yesterday, requesting an extension of time to reply until October 20:

Just because the CIA repeatedly disclosed the total intelligence budgets in 1997 and 1998, that doesn't mean that other annual budget disclosures can be safely accomplished, a federal court decided this week. In fact, it doesn't even mean that the budget disclosures in 1997 and 1998 were safe, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled on September 29.

"It is possible that the DCI made a poor decision in deciding to disclose the intelligence budget totals in 1997 and 1998 and that those disclosures actually did reveal how and where intelligence funds are transferred," Judge Urbina imaginatively wrote, upholding a prior ruling that the 2002 intelligence budget total is exempt from disclosure.

A September 27 report from the Congressional Research Service entitled "9/11 Commission Recommendations: Intelligence Budget" is available here:

A September 24 CRS report entitled "The U.S. Intelligence Budget: A Basic Overview" is available here:


"Information Sharing for Homeland Security: A Brief Overview," Congressional Research Service, updated September 30, 2004, is available here:


"U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress," Congressional Research Service, updated September 28, 2004, is available here:


"Military Role in Space Control: A Primer," Congressional Research Service, September 23, 2004, is available here:


In an audacious challenge to government secrecy policy, a forthcoming new book by independent analyst William M. Arkin exposes and explains thousands of code names of secret government programs and activities.

"From ABLE ALLY to ZODIAC BEAUCHAMP, this book identifies more than 3,000 code names and details the plans and missions for which they stand."

The resulting compilation lays bare for the first time much of the secret infrastructure of defense and intelligence today.

Arkin, who was once a military intelligence officer, is an extraordinarily adept researcher with an enviable network of military and intelligence contacts. Over the past two decades or so, he has repeatedly expanded the boundaries of public knowledge on nuclear weapons and national security policy.

His latest book, Code Names, is perhaps the most concentrated act of defiance of official secrecy policies since Howard Morland wrote about "The H Bomb Secret" in The Progressive in 1979, drawing a government injunction to block publication.

"Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs and Operations in the 9/11 World" by William M. Arkin will be published in January 2005 by Steerforth (, a small press that publishes big books of surprising diversity and literary discernment. See:


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

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