from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 74
July 24, 2012

Secrecy News Blog:


In apparent violation of an arms embargo on Somalia that it helped to impose 20 years ago, the United States is providing clandestine military support to Somali security services without notifying United Nations monitors as required by the embargo.

That is among the findings of the UN Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group, as reported by Eli Lake in "Obama's Not-So-Secret Terror War," The Daily Beast, July 24:

The UN Monitoring Group report "illustrates how President Barack Obama's often-secret war against al-Qaeda can sometimes conflict with his administration's commitment to work cooperatively with the U.N.," wrote Mr. Lake.

"Non-compliance [with the arms embargo] by Member States and International Organizations has become a growing problem in Somalia over the past year," the UN report said, citing 144 undocumented flights "of a military nature" carried out by 12 member states, including the U.S.

The U.S. does provide some acknowledged support to the Somali National Army in accordance with international agreements.

However, the new UN report said, "The Government of the United States is also carrying out in Mogadishu and in Puntland extensive programmes in support of Somali security sector institutions without any prior approval of the Committee."

Specifically, for example, "a United States Government intelligence agency has been providing technical assistance, training and equipment to the Somali National Security Agency for several years." In a January 9, 2012 speech, the Somali "NSA Director General Ahmed Moallin Fiqi thanked the United States Government for its assistance to his service."

Yet officially, "the Government of the United States does not acknowledge any form of direct support to the Somali National Security Agency or any other Somali agency."

Details of various presumed US covert operations were presented in the UN report, as first reported by the Daily Beast. A copy of the confidential report to the UN from members of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea is posted here:


"The Government has invoked the state secrets privilege sparingly and appropriately," the Department of Justice said in a 2011 report to Congress that was released this week.

The 8 page report describes the features of the internal process for determining whether to assert the state secrets privilege in a particular case, including the standards and procedures for validating the use of the privilege.

"The Department has applied and will continue to apply these procedures faithfully in reviewing and defending the invocation of the privilege," the report stated. "The Department believes that good faith adherence to the standards and procedures outlined above will ensure the privilege is invoked in an appropriately narrow set of circumstances."

Furthermore, "while invocation of the privilege may result in the dismissal of some claims, the Department's policy seeks to avoid that result whenever possible, consistent with national security interests."

The report provides a summary of two cases in which the state secrets privilege was asserted, Shubert v. Obama and Al-Aulaqi v. Obama.

The Justice Department report to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the state secrets privilege was transmitted to Congress on April 29, 2011, but it does not seem to have been made public before now.

The 2011 report is described as "the first periodic report to congressional committees" on state secrets cases. "The Department will provide future reports on a periodic basis regarding cases in which the Government has invoked the privilege on behalf of departments or agencies, explaining the basis for the decision in each case."

But a Justice Department official said this morning that there have been no subsequent reports to date.


The House of Representatives roused itself yesterday to name a post office in upstate New York after CIA officer Gregg Wenzel, who died in a car accident in Ethiopia in 2003 while under cover.

"When a man has given his life, as Gregg David Wenzel did, to protect our American liberties, honoring him through the tradition of naming a post office for his extraordinary service to our country is both fitting and inspiring," said Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY).

Henceforward (or upon enactment), "The facility of the United States Postal Service located at 787 State Route 17M in Monroe, New York, shall be known and designated as the 'National Clandestine Service of the Central Intelligence Agency NCS Officer Gregg David Wenzel Memorial Post Office'."


"The Soviet Union has developed a doctrine of 'maskirovka' which calls for the use of camouflage, concealment and deception (CC&D) in defense-related programs and in the conduct of military operations," wrote President Ronald Reagan in the recently declassified 1983 National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 108.

"Several recent discoveries reveal that the Soviet maskirovka program has enjoyed previously unsuspected success and that it is apparently entering a new and improved phase. Many of these discoveries resulted only after concentrated and intensive examination of intelligence accumulated over many years," the Directive said.

"I have decided that a more aggressive and focused U.S. program is essential to better understand and counter Soviet CC&D activities," President Reagan wrote.

Most but not all of the two-page NSDD 108 was declassified in August of last year and made available through the Reagan Presidential Library. A copy of the directive is available here (with thanks to Michael Ravnitzky):


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

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