from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 109
November 30, 2005


Extensive databases of aeronautical information that have long been publicly available will be withdrawn from public access next year, a U.S. intelligence agency said yesterday.

"The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) will go forward with its previously announced proposal to remove its Flight Information Publications (FLIP) and Digital Aeronautical Flight Information File (DAFIF) from public access," according to an NGA news release issued on November 29.

NGA said that copyright concerns raised by foreign data sources were the driving factor for the decision to withhold the information from the public.

Proponents of public access argued that the move was unnecessarily restrictive in its scope.

It sets "a very bad precedent" when "the introduction of any copyright-protected material renders a massive public-domain database off-limits to the public," said one subject matter expert who requested anonymity because he works with NGA. "Many, many other databases are at stake."

"The decision that NGA should have taken, in my view, was to have offered a redacted version of the databases for public sale. DAFIF -- a really big database -- could easily have been stripped of its Australian-supplied [copyrighted] data and kept public and available," he told Secrecy News.

The data withdrawal will be begin in January 2006 and will be completed in October 2007.

The NGA did not approve another proposal to withdraw certain paper maps from public access.

"NGA has decided not to withdraw paper map products to a scale of 1:250,000 to 1:5,000,000. These products will continue to be available to the public," the news release stated.

The industry expert welcomed that decision. But he said that "the unstated reality is that NGA has mostly turned off the oxygen to cartographic production, so few new maps are being prepared as digital masters and even fewer are being sent to the printing press."

The NGA proposal to withdraw public access to aeronautical data, which was originally announced in November 2004, drew "numerous comments ... from private citizens and special interests groups."

See "NGA to Go Forward with Proposal to Remove Aeronautical Data from Public Access," NGA news release, November 29:


The military role in domestic intelligence collection appears to be rapidly shifting in subtle and profound ways, as new missions are assigned to little-known military organizations and most congressional overseers are silently acquiescent or actively supportive.

One of the public manifestations of the changing landscape is a new Defense Department Instruction that "establishes procedures, and assigns responsibilities ... for the conduct and administration of DoD counterintelligence (CI) collection reporting activities."

See "DoD Counterintelligence Collection Reporting," DoD Instruction 5240.17, October 26, 2005:

The Instruction was issued by Stephen A. Cambone, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. His authorities and responsibilities are themselves defined in the updated DoD Directive 5143.01, dated November 23, 2005:

The expansion of domestic military surveillance was reported in the Washington Post on November 27, and was elaborated with new details by William M. Arkin in his Washington Post blog. See "Domestic Military Intelligence Is Back," November 29:


The strengths and weaknesses of the Freedom of Information Act were explored in a May hearing of the House Government Reform Committee, the transcript of which has just been published.

The lead witness was Allen Weinstein, the Archivist of the United States, who recalled that long before he became Archivist, he sued the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act, which is indeed an excellent credential. Other witnesses included representatives of the Justice Department, the Government Accountability Office, media and public interest groups.

See "Information Policy in the 21st Century: A Review of the Freedom of Information Act," hearing before a subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee, May 11:


The Central Intelligence Agency is in several respects a wounded agency. Its authority is diminished, and its credibility on everything from weapons of mass destruction to information classification policy is in tatters, leaving it an object of derision.

See, for example, "CIA Realizes It's Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years," which is intended to be a satire, in The Onion, November 30:

But there are still plenty of people who are eager to work there, more than the Agency can even consider hiring.

See "It's no secret: CIA scouting for recruits" by John Diamond, USA Today, November 23:

In recent years, "We had 100,000 applicants for CIA," said Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) at an October 19 hearing of the House Intelligence Committee. "You know how many got looked at? Thirty thousand. Seventy thousand never even got a letter back. That's bad."

Speaking of bad, Rep. Cunningham, who was an intelligence subcommittee chairman, resigned in disgrace from Congress on November 28 after admitting that he accepted millions of dollars in bribes and evaded taxes.

The public policy consequences of such gross corruption at the highest levels of the intelligence oversight process have barely begun to be assessed.

Rep. Cunningham was a reliable advocate of unbending secrecy in intelligence matters. On at least two occasions, in 1997 and 2000, he voted against public disclosure of the aggregate intelligence budget figure-- since that would damage national security.


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

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