from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 106
October 5, 2006

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Five years after September 11, the government's capacity to share intelligence and threat information with state and local officials (not to mention the public) remains sub-optimal, some of those officials complain.

"Much of the needed intelligence information is locked away from those who need it in the field or on the scene because of outdated cold war mentalities regarding classification of intelligence information," said Illinois State Police Col. Kenneth Bouche at a September 7 hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee.

"Critical information must be unclassified and disseminated appropriately if it is to be of any use in preventing domestic terrorism," he said.

"The federal government must work towards a goal of declassifying information to the maximum extent possible," Col. Bouche urged.

The Democratic staff of the House Homeland Security Committee issued a report last week proposing seven initiatives aimed at "improving information sharing between the intelligence community and state, local, and tribal law enforcement."

See "LEAP: A Law Enforcement Assistance and Partnership Strategy," September 28:


A bill introduced by Congressional Democrats would empower the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to perform financial audits and other oversight of U.S. intelligence agencies, a function that those agencies have long resisted.

"Since 9/11, effective [intelligence] oversight is needed now more than ever," said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) in a September 28 floor statement.

"However, now the Congress cannot do its job properly, in part, because its key investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, is not given adequate access to the intelligence community."

"Unfortunately, the intelligence community stonewalls the GAO when committees of jurisdiction request that GAO investigate problems," Sen. Akaka said.

"If the GAO had been able to conduct basic auditing functions of the CIA, perhaps some of the problems that were so clearly exposed following the terrorist attacks in September 2001 would have been resolved. And yet, it is extraordinary that five years after 9-11 the same problems persist," he said.

He introduced two related Congressional Research Service memoranda into the Congressional Record: one on "Congressional Oversight of Intelligence" and another on "Overview of 'Classified' and 'Sensitive But Unclassified' Information."

See Sen. Akaka's full September 28 statement on "The Intelligence Community Audit Act of 2006":

If nothing else, the Akaka bill may provide a clue as to the direction of intelligence oversight in the future, if Democrats take control of Congress.

Under current leadership, intelligence oversight has fractured and decayed. For the second year in a row, Congress failed to pass an intelligence authorization bill this year.


Congress adopted legislation that limits the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to withhold so-called "sensitive security information" (SSI), which is a category of restricted information related to transportation security.

The 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations Act would, among other things, require "the release of certain SSI information that is three years old unless the Secretary makes a written determination that identifies a rational reason why the information must remain SSI." See:

The measure was signed into law by the President on October 4.

Former Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-Idaho), who died this week, once challenged an airport security official who wanted to pat her down before boarding an airliner. She demanded to see the regulation that authorized such an action. The official refused, indicating that it was SSI and could not be shared with a member of the public. Rep. Chenoweth declined to submit, and took a car instead.

I retold this story in "The Secrets of Flight," Slate, November 18, 2004:

Whether the government can impose such "secret law" is a question that has recently been presented to the Supreme Court by John Gilmore, who was told that he could not have access to the regulation requiring him to show his identification at the airport. See:


Family members of U.S. military intelligence personnel who are killed while engaged in clandestine intelligence operations may be eligible for special monetary gratuities, according to a recently updated Defense Department Instruction.

"A gratuity shall be paid to the dependents of any member of the Armed Forces or of any employee of the Department of Defense assigned to duty with a DoD intelligence component, whose identity is disguised or concealed; or who is within a category of individuals determined by the Secretary of Defense to be engaged in clandestine intelligence activities; and who, after October 14, 1980, dies because of injuries (excluding disease) sustained outside the United States and whose death resulted from hostile or terrorist activities, or occurred in connection with an intelligence activity having a substantial element of risk."

The new policy was issued by Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone.

See "Payment of Death Gratuity to Survivors of Certain DoD Personnel Assigned to Intelligence Duties," DoD Instruction 1341.08, 25 August 2006:


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

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