from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 109
December 8, 2004


The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 is on its way to becoming law, having been passed by the House of Representatives on December 7 by a vote of 336-75.

The full ramifications of the intelligence reform package are unknown and perhaps unknowable, given the enormous size of the legislation and its frequent opacity.

With respect to secrecy policy, there were several notable developments.

The Act's rejection of intelligence budget disclosure -- despite the unanimous recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and the endorsement of the full Senate -- is a setback that tends to reinforce the arbitrary and excessive secrecy that the 9/11 Commission found in the intelligence bureaucracy.

On the more positive side, the Act revivifies the dormant Public Interest Declassification Board, formally established four years ago but never convened, and assigns it the additional task of "reviewing" congressional requests for declassification of particular records. Though the Board will have no independent authority to speak of, it may turn out to serve as a useful forum for adjudicating classification disputes.

Perhaps the most important secrecy-related feature of the Intelligence Reform Act is what is not in it: the authority to create an entirely autonomous new classification system for intelligence. As noted by Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies, previous versions of the Act appeared to grant such authority to the Director of National Intelligence, with potentially fearful consequences.

But with the assistance and timely intervention of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), that bullet has been dodged:

"The conference report does not expand authority under which information is classified, which is pursuant to Executive Order or other Presidential directive, but rather directs the DNI to establish and implement guidelines for the intelligence community for the purpose of such classification of information," according to the conference report explanatory statement.

The text of the conference report on the intelligence reform bill (House Report 107-796, 770KB) is here:

A 26-page summary of the conference report prepared by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is here:

The December 7 House floor debate and vote on the measure is here:


The conference report on the intelligence authorization for fiscal year 2005 (which began October 1) has finally been completed. A copy of the document (House Report 108-798) is posted here:

Senators Rockefeller, Levin, Wyden and Durbin declined to sign the conference report because they objected to "continued funding of a major [classified] acquisition program that they believe is unnecessary and the cost of which they believe is unjustified," the report notes obliquely at the end.


"Port and Maritime Security: Potential for Terrorist Nuclear Attack Using Oil Tankers," December 7, 2004:

"Intelligence Community Reorganization: Potential Effects on DOD Intelligence Agencies," updated December 6, 2004:

"Homeland Security Advisory System: Possible Issues for Congressional Oversight," updated November 12, 2004:

"Emergency Communications: The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and All-Hazard Warnings," updated November 12, 2004:

"Continuity of Operations (COOP) in the Executive Branch: Background and Issues for Congress," updated November 8, 2004:

"Potential Military Use of Airships and Aerostats," updated November 11, 2004:


A new study published by the US Army War College identifies central themes pertaining to war in Islamic theology, argues that they have been misinterpreted by Islamist militants, and proposes an interpretation of key texts that the authors say could serve to inform an ideological opposition to Islamist militancy.

See "Islamic Rulings on Warfare" by Youssef H. Aboul-Enein and Sherifa Zuhur, US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, October 2004:


Official investigation into the decision to go to war in Iraq seems to have fizzled out in the United States, along with such other inconvenient matters as Bush Administration policy on torture. But in the United Kingdom, at least, the origins of the Iraq war are still something of a live issue.

According to a recent article in the New Statesman, British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith was pressured by the US government in 2003 to advise the British government that unilateral military action in Iraq would be legal even without specific authorization from the United Nations.

Lord Goldsmith had initially been a skeptic on this point, the Statesman article said, but his mind was changed by a February 2003 meeting with John B. Bellinger III of the National Security Council. The White House telephone directory identifies Mr. Bellinger as Senior Associate Counsel to the President and NSC Legal Adviser.

See "The law chief who bowed to Blair" by John Kampfner, New Statesman, November 22:

Exactly what did Mr. Bellinger of the NSC tell Lord Goldsmith in 2003 to change his mind?

That's what Glenda Jackson, the brilliant actress who is now a Member of Parliament for the Labour Party, wanted to know.

She posed the question to the UK Solicitor General on November 30.

The answer came back: "These were confidential Government to Government discussions and their content is covered by legal professional privilege." See:


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

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