Senate Armed Services Committee
Hearing on Defense Intelligence Reorganization
August 17, 2004
[excerpts on overclassification]
SEN. CLINTON: [...] And finally, because I know you have to put in a lot of words before the times goes up, this whole question of secrecy is something that I think deserves a lot of attention. My predecessor, the late Senator Moynihan, wrote a book called "Secrecy," which I commend to you because in it he raises some very interesting questions about what we need to keep secret and what we don't need to keep secret.
And, in fact, we have overclassified a lot of information that if not kept secret, could have actually helped people at all levels of our government respond to situations that they were confronted by. And it is, I think, a legitimate concern that we have to figure out how to keep secret what is worth keeping secret.
But we have to put this overclassifying and create almost an incentive for people to share information and sometimes to, I think, very detrimental consequences such as the outing of Valerie Plame and also the latest outrage which was the revealing of Mr. Khan's name. I mean, I find those things just inexcusable and unbelievable. And it happens all the time.
So I think the whole question about secrecy, what should or shouldn't be classified, needs to be looked at at the same time.
So having exhausted, I'm sure, my time, I'd appreciate any response that any of you might have to any of these points.
RUMSFELD: [...] I'm familiar with Pat Moynihan's book on secrecy, and you're correct there, too. When you're dealing with these things everyday, I very often ask: Why is this classified? And give me a declassified version that comes out almost the same.
It is because, I suppose people are busy, they want to be safe, not sorry. And there is a process, always, to review after some period of time. But the overclassification is, I agree, something that very properly ought to be addressed in a serious way. And we'd be happy to respond to some of the other questions in your comments for the record.
ACTING DCI MCLAUGHLIN: [...] May I just answer two of your other points, Senator Clinton. On the secrecy issue, I think this is a complicated question in our age, particularly when it comes to terrorism. If you think about it, back in the Cold War or even prior to 9/11, the kind of secrets we had to go out and find were mostly in governments, ministries, cabinets and so forth, overseas. Today, the enemy we're facing, particularly in terrorism, compartments secrets down to a handful of people in a cave somewhere. It's very well-documented in the 9/11 report how few people knew about that.
So what I take from this is they use secrecy as a strategic weapon. It's a strategic weapon for them because it asymmetrically works against us because we don't keep secrets very well. And most of what we have to say, most of what -- it's all out there. And as the secretary said, they go to school on us.
So while I support a lot of Senator Moynihan had to say, and I'm familiar with his book, I just think we do need to rethink the whole secrecy thing when we're going against terrorists.
And on the information sharing, this is another complicated issue. And, you know, we have to be careful not to point fingers on this because it is complicated. People have different memories of what was shared, what wasn't shared.
CIA has some differences with the 9/11 Commission on this point, particularly on the issue of sharing with FBI. We have pointed out to them that the original reporting, for example, on the two hijackers -- pointed out to the 9/11 Commission, that the original intelligence on them was available to a wide array of agencies, including FBI, CIA, NSA, State Department and so forth.
And we pointed out to them that we made an association with the FBI between one of these hijackers and the Cole bomber, one of the Cole bombers, Khaled, in approximately December of 2000, I believe it was.
For some reason, they didn't accept that, and the report says what it does. That said, there were many instances where information wasn't shared, but I just think it's been a bit overdrawn in the report.
WARREN: Thank you, Director McLaughlin. Thank you, Senator Clinton.