from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 49
May 24, 2005


Abetted by official secrecy and one-party dominance, the character of American government is undergoing a series of fundamental transformations. While the concentration of power in the executive branch continues apace, traditional mechanisms of government accountability are being diminished or dismantled, and agency actions are increasingly insulated from citizen oversight or awareness.

As the role of citizens in the democratic process has declined, the importance of new constellations of power and influence has risen.

One such newly prominent construct is the "quasi government," described by the Congressional Research Service as "federally related entities that possess legal characteristics of both the governmental and private sectors."

"These hybrid organizations (e.g., Fannie Mae, National Park Foundation, In-Q-Tel)... have grown in number, size, and importance in recent decades," the CRS stated in a new report.

"The quasi government, not surprisingly, is a controversial subject. To supporters of this trend toward greater reliance upon hybrid organizations, the proper objective of governmental management is to maximize performance and results, however defined... They tend to welcome this trend toward greater use of quasi governmental entities."

"Critics of the quasi government, on the other hand, tend to view hybrid organizations as contributing to a weakened capacity of government to perform its fundamental constitutional duties, and to an erosion in political accountability, a crucial element in democratic governance...."

"Time will tell whether the emergence of the quasi government is to be viewed as a symptom of decline in our democratic government, or a harbinger of a new, creative management era where the purported artificial barriers between the governmental and private sectors are breached as a matter of principle."

A copy of the CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "The Quasi Government: Hybrid Organizations with Both Government and Private Sector Legal Characteristics," updated May 18, 2005:


The Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, a congressionally-mandated initiative intended to support a permanent nuclear weapons arsenal based on newly designed replaceable parts, is the subject of a major new report from the Congressional Research Service issued today.

The CRS report, the most extensive treatment of the topic published to date, describes the origins of the controversial new nuclear weapons program, its likely impacts, and the views of supporters and opponents.

The report has not been publicly released, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "Nuclear Weapons: The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program," May 24, 2005:


A new report from the Congressional Research Service examines congressional authority over the judicial branch.

"Usually congressional oversight of the judicial branch is noncontroversial, but when Congress proposes to use its oversight and regulatory powers in a manner designed to affect the outcome of pending or previously decided cases, constitutional issues can be raised."

"While Congress has broad power to regulate the structure, administration and jurisdiction of the courts, its powers are limited by precepts of due process, equal protection and separation of powers."

See "Congressional Authority Over the Federal Courts," May 16, 2005:


The Central Intelligence Agency provided a descriptive inventory of dozens of records systems maintained by the Agency that are subject to the Privacy Act in a 35 page notice published in the Federal Register today.

"The Central Intelligence Agency has undertaken and completed a zero-based, Agency-wide review of its Privacy Act systems of records.... Rather than making numerous, piecemeal revisions, the Agency decided to draft and republish updated notices for all of its Privacy Act systems of records. By doing so, the Agency hopes to make these notices as clear and accessible to the public as possible."

See the CIA Federal Register notice here:


The heat and blast effects of a nuclear explosive detonated in a major American city can be readily estimated using a new online tool from the Federation of American Scientists.

The Nuclear Weapons Effects Calculator, devised by FAS staff member Blake Purnell, is based on data from Glasstone's canonical Effects of Nuclear Weapons. The Java-based calculator allows the user to vary the size of the modeled blast (in kilotons) as well as the height of detonation over one of 25 American cities.

"This is just a very graphic way to let anyone see what the effect of a bomb on his city would be," said Ivan Oelrich, FAS strategic security project director, as quoted in Science magazine (May 13, 2005, p. 933).

See the FAS Nuclear Weapons Effects Calculator here:


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

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