from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
August 10, 2001
OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT LOOMS AGAIN
- OFFICIAL SECRETS ACT LOOMS AGAIN
- "SUPPRESSED" FRUS VOLUME PUBLISHED
- PLUTONIUM DISPOSITION REPORT LEAKED
- IN-Q-TEL LOOKS PROMISING -- BUT CIA NEEDS WORK
- STATE DEPT ACQUIRES KISSINGER TELCONS
- BOSNIA WAR CRIME DATA WITHHELD
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is preparing to revive the very same proposal to criminalize unauthorized disclosures of classified information that led to the veto of the last year's intelligence authorization bill.
The legislation, propelled by Sen. Richard Shelby, would make the knowing and willful disclosure of classified information to an unauthorized person a felony.
In vetoing the measure last November 4, President Clinton called it "badly flawed" and said it could have a "chilling effect," limiting the participation of government officials "even in appropriate public discussion, press briefings, or other legitimate official activities."
Evidently having learned nothing, the Committee is poised to reintroduce the very same proposal in next month's markup of the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2002. A hearing on the matter, featuring government and press witnesses, is scheduled for September 5.
In a report published last week the Intelligence Committee reviews its activities during the 106th Congress (1999-2000). The report provides some new information on the Committee's diverse activities, including a defense of its attempts to criminalize disclosures of classified information.
From the point of view of public accountability, the Senate Intelligence Committee in the 106th Congress was perhaps the worst in the history of intelligence oversight.
An unusually small fraction of the Committee's hearings were open to the public. Likewise, a sharply diminished number of non-governmental witnesses were invited to testify before the Committee. Under then-Chairman Shelby, the Committee increasingly became an adjunct of the intelligence community rather than in any sense a representative of the public.
The new Senate Intelligence Committee report (S. Rep. 107-51), dated August 3, may be found here:
"SUPPRESSED" FRUS VOLUME PUBLISHED
On Wednesday, the State Department formally released the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) volume on Indonesia that had been withheld because of concern at the CIA and the State Department that it could upset relations with the Indonesian government.
The new release was utterly anticlimactic due to the fact that an advance copy of the volume was published last month by the National Security Archive.
Although the earlier release elicited some slight press interest in Indonesia, it created no controversy to speak of. No ambassadors were withdrawn, no censures were issued, no riots ensued.
"The fact that this is a ho-hum issue in Indonesia really makes us look like idiots," said one government official who participated in the process.
The text of the new volume and an accompanying release may be found here:
Another completed FRUS volume whose release has been deferred due to its purported political sensitivity addresses U.S. foreign policy toward Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey during 1964-1968. While eventual release of that volume is "inevitable," an official said, no release date has been set.
PLUTONIUM DISPOSITION REPORT LEAKED
An internal Department of Energy report reveals that the cost of disposing of weapons grade plutonium by converting it to mixed oxide (MOX) reactor fuel is far higher than previously estimated, calling this disposal approach into question.
The DOE report was never provided to Congress, despite a mandatory February 2001 due date. But a copy was obtained by the Nuclear Control Institute, a non-proliferation research and advocacy organization, which posted the report on its web site yesterday.
"We find it contrary to the will of Congress and harmful to the discussion over the fate of surplus plutonium that DOE has withheld release of this report which was required by law," said Tom Clements, Executive Director of the Nuclear Control Institute (NCI).
NCI argues that "immobilization" of surplus plutonium by rendering it into ceramic form, for example, would be a superior alternative to consuming it as MOX reactor fuel. The new report confirms that immobilization would be the cheaper alternative. But DOE recently canceled its immobilization research and development program.
"It's no mystery why DOE wouldn't want Congress to see this report as it points to the conclusion that immobilization is cheaper than MOX," said Clements. "Instead of abandoning this promising technology at a critical stage DOE should reverse course and give immobilization its full support."
The internal DOE report and related information may be found on the NCI web site here:
IN-Q-TEL LOOKS PROMISING -- BUT CIA NEEDS WORK
In-Q-Tel, the venture capital enterprise established by the CIA in 1999 to facilitate the introduction of new technologies into the aging intelligence bureaucracy, is off to a promising start, according to a new assessment by a group of corporate executives. But the CIA is ill-equipped to take advantage of its contributions.
"In-Q-Tel has achieved significant early progress," the report by Business Executives for National Security (BENS) stated.
"To date, In-Q-Tel has reviewed hundreds of business plans, made more than a dozen investments, brought five technologies and services to the Agency for use or demonstration, and has implemented three pilots since its charter was signed in July 1999. By private sector standards, this represents a noteworthy accomplishment and the start of a good track record."
At the same time, however, "the CIA has been unprepared ... to integrate the solutions In-Q-Tel delivers." A host of technological, security and other barriers the authors found at the CIA pose fundamental challenges to the In-Q-Tel initiative.
"The Report of the Independent Panel on the CIA In-Q-Tel Venture," released on August 7, may be found on the BENS web site here:
STATE DEPT ACQUIRES KISSINGER TELCONS
Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger has provided the Department of State with 10,000 pages of documents from his years as Secretary, the State Department announced yesterday.
The newly acquired documents are transcriptions of official telephone conversations (telcons) that Kissinger had between 1973 and 1976. Until last week, these transcripts were held in a closed collection at the Library of Congress, much to the annoyance and frustration of historians and students of American foreign policy.
The National Security Archive, which pressed for the move, presents further information about it here:
BOSNIA WAR CRIME DATA WITHHELD
A federal appeals court this week rejected a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking disclosure of intelligence imagery and other records concerning human rights violations committed by Bosnian Serb forces during the summer of 1995.
A human rights organization called Students Against Genocide (SAGE) had requested copies of satellite and aerial images of mass graves that were displayed by Secretary of State Albright to the UN Security Council in 1995. Some of the photos were subsequently released. On appeal, SAGE sought release of other images and documentation that were withheld.
The court rejected almost all of the appellant's arguments. The fact that some photos had been released did not mean that all of them could be, the court ruled. Just because the Secretary of State had revealed the images to foreign governments at the UN did not mean that they could be disclosed to the general public. Further, the government had no obligation to prepare a releasable version of the intelligence photos by degrading their resolution, the court said.
The August 7 ruling is posted here:
Some previously released Bosnia imagery may be found here:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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