from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 52
June 2, 2005


The National Reconnaissance Office is sharply curtailing its response to Freedom of Information Act requests by expanding its interpretation of "operational files" that are exempt from the FOIA.

According to statute, operational files are records "that document the means by which foreign intelligence or counterintelligence is collected through scientific and technical systems." Congress exempted NRO operational files from the FOIA in 2002 based on a presumption that such records would be highly classified and unreleasable in any case.

But the NRO now contends that routine administrative records such as budget justification documents prepared for Congress are "operational files" and that they are therefore exempt from review and disclosure under FOIA even when they are unclassified.

It was not always so. As recently as last year, the NRO released unclassified portions of its Congressional Budget Justification Book for FY 1998 in response to a FOIA request. That material is posted here:

But in response to a similar request for unclassified budget records for FY 2006, the NRO said that all such records are now considered operational files that are exempt from review or release. In response to an administrative appeal, they reaffirmed their position in a May 18 denial letter:

The NRO budget justification files are produced each year for the express purpose of dissemination outside of the Agency. They are certainly not what Congress had in mind in granting NRO a FOIA exemption for "operational files." But in the absence of effective oversight, it may take litigation to prove the point.

Exemptions for "operational files" have also been granted to the CIA, NGA and NSA. Another such exemption has been requested by the Defense Intelligence Agency. It was included in the Senate version of the 2006 Defense Authorization Act (section 922 of S. 1042) but not in the House version (HR 1815).


"There is considerable evidence to indicate that Israel is engaged in developing capabilities in the nuclear weapons and delivery fields," according to a September 21, 1961 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE 4-3-61) which proceeded to describe that evidence.

The NIE was published as part of a remarkable collection of U.S. intelligence estimates on the proliferation of nuclear weapons from 1957-1967 compiled by the National Security Archive.

"The sensitivity of the Israeli nuclear issue and that nation's commitment to a policy of opacity on its nuclear weapons status has generally encouraged the U.S. government to take a highly restrictive approach to declassifying intelligence analysis on the Israeli program," observed William Burr, who edited the Archive compilation.

See "National Intelligence Estimates of the Nuclear Proliferation Problem: The First Ten Years, 1957-1967," National Security Archive, June 1, 2005:

The significance of the documents was discussed in the Israeli press today by Avner Cohen, author of the "The Last Taboo," a critique of the Israeli policy of nuclear opacity to be published next week.

See "CIA Estimated: By 1966 Israel will be a Nuclear Power" by Avner Cohen, Yediot Aharonot, June 2 (in Hebrew):

A new bibliography of published Israeli research in nuclear science and technology has been prepared by independent researcher Mark Gorwitz, as part of a continuing project to map the propagation of nuclear knowledge around the world.

See "Bibliography of Israeli Nuclear Science Publications" by Mark Gorwitz, June 2005:


A new history of intelligence and security services in Spain, from the Spanish civil war to the national trauma of the March 11, 2004 train bombings in Madrid, has just been published.

"Los Servicios de Inteligencia Españoles," written by political scientist Antonio M. Díaz, is the first comprehensive treatment of the subject, including an introduction to the field of intelligence for general readers and a comparative assessment of the services of other countries.

As a matter of course, the author provides Spanish intelligence budget data for the past decade (p. 299). Similar information is not available in the United States, which no longer sets the world standard for democratic accountability in such matters.

"Los Servicios de Inteligencia Españoles: Desde la guerra civil hasta el 11-M: Historia de una transición" by Antonio M. Díaz was published this year by Alianza Editorial (in Spanish). For further information or to order online, search under the title or author here:


Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone issued a new DoD Instruction last month that assigns responsibilities and defines procedures for providing Pentagon counterintelligence services.

See "DoD Counterintelligence Functional Services," DoD Instruction 5240.16, May 21, 2005:

Two related instructions issued by Mr. Cambone over the past year are:

"Counterintelligence Support to the Combatant Commands and the Defense Agencies," DOD Instruction 5240.10, May 14, 2004:

"Counterintelligence (CI) Awareness, Briefing, and Reporting Programs," DoD Instruction 5240.6, August 7, 2004:


Direct public access to products of the Congressional Research Service is not authorized by Congress. But some recent CRS reports obtained by Secrecy News include the following:

"U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress," updated May 10, 2005:

"China's Growing Interest in Latin America," April 20, 2005:

"Nuclear Weapons: The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program," updated May 26, 2005 to include recent Congressional action:

"Potential Military Use of Airships and Aerostats," updated May 9, 2005:

"Cruise Missile Defense," updated May 2, 2005:

"Navy DD(X), CG(X) and LCS Ship Acquisition Programs: Oversight Issues and Options for Congress," updated April 21, 2005:

"U.S. Assistance to the Former Soviet Union," April 14, 2005:

"Coup in Kyrgyzstan: Developments and Implications," April 14, 2005:

"Iraq Oil: Reserves, Production, and Potential Revenues," updated April 13, 2005:

"U.S. Embassy in Iraq," updated April 11, 2005:

"Internet: An Overview of Key Technology Policy Issues Affecting Its Use and Growth," updated April 13, 2005:


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

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