from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 114
October 31, 2006

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The specialized language of government information policy is itself a reflection of the intricacies and convolutions of that policy.

A newly updated and substantially expanded lexicon of information-related terms, prepared by Susan L. Maret, provides a valuable map to the language and the terrain of U.S. government information policy.

Hundreds of entries, ranging from the well-known or obvious ("classified") to the obscure and recondite (e.g., EPITS), are presented with lucid definitions and pointers to official source documents.

"These terms represent a virtual seed catalog to federal informationally-driven procedures, policies, and practices involving, among other matters, the information life cycle, record keeping, ownership over information, collection and analysis of intelligence information, security classification categories and markings, censorship, citizen right-to-know, deception, propaganda, secrecy, technology, surveillance, threat, and warfare," Dr. Maret writes.

"The terms reported here -- which have often been interpreted widely from one federal agency to another -- play a significant role in shaping social and political reality, and furthering government policy."

See "On Their Own Terms: A Lexicon with an Emphasis on Information-Related Terms Produced by the U.S. Federal Government" by Susan Maret, Ph.D., updated October 2006:

An MS Word version of the Lexicon is here.


The Office of Director of National Intelligence is holding a media roundtable today to introduce "Intellipedia," described as a Wikipedia for the Intelligence Community.

The event follows on a news story about Intellipedia and related initiatives in the current issue of U.S. News and World Report. See "Wikis and Blogs, Oh My!" by David E. Kaplan, U.S. News, October 30:


Processing of applications for security clearances by the Department of Defense continues to fall far behind official targets for improvement, according to the Government Accountability Office.

"Our independent analysis of timeliness data showed that industry personnel contracted to work for the federal government waited more than one year on average to receive top secret clearances," a new GAO study said.

Among other things, the latest study provides a useful snapshot of the security clearance apparatus. It reports, for example, that approximately 2.5 million persons hold security clearances authorized by the Department of Defense.

See "DOD Personnel Clearances: Additional OMB Actions Are Needed to Improve the Security Clearance Process" [GAO-06-1070], September 2006:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is proposing a new rule on protection of "Safeguards Information" (SGI).

"SGI is a special category of sensitive unclassified information to be protected from unauthorized disclosure under Section 147 of the [Atomic Energy Act]."

"Although SGI is considered to be sensitive unclassified information, it is handled and protected more like Classified National Security Information than like other sensitive unclassified information (e.g., privacy and proprietary information)." Access to SGI, for example, requires a validated "need to know."

The proposed NRC rule, issued for public comment, was published in the Federal Register today. See:


A new report from the Congressional Research Service synthesizes what is known, believed and speculated about the recent North Korean nuclear explosive test, and sketches out the options for U.S. policy.

"The most fundamental U.S. goals of the confrontation with North Korea are to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to prevent an attack -- either nuclear or conventional -- on the United States or on its allies in the region," the report says.

"The options available to U.S. policymakers to pursue these goals include the acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear power, bilateral or multilateral negotiations, heightened legal and economic pressure on North Korea, adoption of a regime change policy through non-military means, military action or threats, and withdrawal from the conflict."

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

See "North Korea's Nuclear Test: Motivations, Implications, and U.S. Options," October 24, 2006:


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

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