from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 54
June 4, 2008

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On the same day that he became the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, Sen. Barack Obama introduced new legislation to expand public access to information about government spending.

The bill, known as "The Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008," was crafted on a bi-partisan basis with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, is also an original co-sponsor of the bill, as is Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE).

The new bill would build upon and improve previous efforts by Senators Obama and Coburn to provide public access to federal grant and contract information through the web site. Among other things, it would require copies of each federal contract and details of the bidding process to be published online.

The provisions of the bill were outlined in a joint press release on June 3.

"People from every State in this great Nation sent us to Congress to defend their rights and stand up for their interests," Sen. Obama said in a prepared floor statement. "To do that we have to tear down the barriers that separate citizens from the democratic process and to shine a brighter light on the inner workings of Washington. This bill helps to shine that light."

While most government agencies have cooperated with the contracting transparency requirements that were adopted in 2006, some intelligence agencies have dragged their heels in opposition. The Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which used to disclose their unclassified contracts, actually withheld such information from the database in 2007 and 2008 (Secrecy News, Dec. 18, 2007).


Dozens of countries are conducting research involving animal pox viruses, according to a descriptive survey performed for the U.S. intelligence community's Open Source Center.

There are various potential public health and security concerns associated with pox viruses (such as smallpox), the OSC report says in a background discussion.

"Naturally occurring smallpox disease was eliminated worldwide in 1977. Routine vaccination of US civilians against smallpox was discontinued in 1971, but allowed for travelers to endemic regions until the late 1970s. In most other countries, vaccination of the general population ended by 1982. As a result of this halt in vaccination, most of the US population could now become ill with smallpox disease should it be reintroduced by accident or intentionally."

"In addition, humans are susceptible to several naturally occurring viruses related to smallpox, one of which could become a serious disease risk through natural evolution. Routine smallpox vaccination previously protected against these viruses. Finally, there is concern about the potential creation of a genetically engineered poxvirus that might be markedly pathogenic for humans."

Like most finished intelligence products from the Open Source Center, the report on animal pox viruses has not been approved for public release. But a copy was obtained independently by Secrecy News.

See "Recent Worldwide Research on Animal Pox Viruses," MITRE Corporation, January 2008:


Not even a valid intelligence requirement can be used to justify cruel treatment of a detained enemy combatant, according to Defense Department doctrine on "detainee operations."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff last week issued a slightly revised version of that DoD doctrine on detainees (the second revision this year).

The document reaffirms that all detainees must be treated humanely.

"Inhumane treatment of detainees is prohibited by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, domestic and international law, and DOD policy. There is no exception to this humane treatment requirement."

"Accordingly, the stress of combat operations, the need for intelligence, or deep provocation by captured and/or detained personnel does not justify deviation from this obligation."

See Joint Publication 3-63, "Detainee Operations," 30 May 2008:


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

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