SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2017, Issue No. 24
April 3, 2017

Secrecy News Blog: https://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/

MANDATING DECLASSIFICATION IN CONGRESS

Last week a bill was introduced in the Senate "to require the Secretary of Defense to declassify certain documents related to incidents in which members of the Armed Forces were exposed to toxic substances."

The bill (S. 726), introduced by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), generally requires declassification of all "documents related to any known incident in which not fewer than 100 members of the Armed Forces were exposed to a toxic substance that resulted in at least one case of a disability that a member of the medical profession has determined to be associated with that toxic substance."

The bill is the latest example of congressional action to initiate, prioritize or override executive branch policy on declassification of national security records.

The new bill grants an exception from the declassification requirement "if the Secretary [of Defense] determines that declassification of those documents would materially and immediately threaten the security of the United States." This is a notably narrower exemption than that provided by the Freedom of Information Act, which deems records properly classified and therefore exempt if their disclosure would simply cause "damage" to national security.

The bill would not provide any new funding for declassification. So it would presumably be implemented at the expense of current declassification programs.

The Moran-Tester bill may or may not advance through the legislative process. But numerous other congressional declassification initiatives have been enacted into law over the years.

In a report last week, for example, the Senate Intelligence Committee recalled that it had successfully legislated "a requirement that the DNI complete a declassification review of information on the past terrorist activities of detainees transferred or released from Guantanamo, [and] make resulting declassified information publicly available." See SSCI Report on activities during the 114th Congress, S.Rpt. 115-13, March 29.


THE TRUMP DEFENSE BUDGET PROPOSALS, & MORE FROM CRS

Would the Trump Administration's defense budget proposals comply with the current Budget Control Act limits on defense spending?

"No," answered the Congressional Research Service in a new report, which was authored by CRS specialist Pat Towell and analyst Lynn M. Williams. See The Trump Administration's March 2017 Defense Budget Proposals: Frequently Asked Questions, April 3, 2017:

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), updated March 31, 2017:

The Army's Sustainable Readiness Model (SRM), CRS Insight, March 31, 2017:

Votes on Measures to Adjust the Statutory Debt Limit, 1978 to Present, updated March 30, 2017:

Keystone XL Pipeline: Development Issues, CRS Insight, March 30, 2017:

Expiring Funds for Primary Care, CRS Insight, March 30, 2017:

Overview of CEQ Guidance on Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change, CRS Insight, updated March 30, 2017:

The Civil Service Reform Act: Due Process and Misconduct-Related Adverse Actions, March 29, 2017:

A Brief Overview of Rulemaking and Judicial Review, updated March 27, 2017:

Major Disaster Assistance from the Disaster Relief Fund: State Profiles, updated March 29, 2017:

Sub-Saharan Africa: Key Issues, Challenges, and U.S. Responses, March 21, 2017:

Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy, updated March 29, 2017:

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, updated March 28, 2017:

Burma's Political Prisoners and U.S. Policy: In Brief, March 30, 2017:

Iran Sanctions, updated March 31, 2017:

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities -- Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 29, 2017:

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

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