from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
December 12, 2001
GARFINKEL BIDS FAREWELL
- GARFINKEL BIDS FAREWELL
- BIOLOGICAL AGENT DATA EXEMPTED FROM DISCLOSURE
- FRUS VOLUME ON GREECE DELAYED AGAIN
- WEN HO LEE DEPOSED
Steven Garfinkel, who has overseen the evolution of the government secrecy system as director of the Information Security Oversight Office for the past two decades, gave a stirring valedictory address yesterday in anticipation of his upcoming retirement.
"I leave government most proud of having protected every bit of the classified information with which I have been entrusted," Garfinkel said.
But classification is only half of the story. "No one can be expected to take secrecy seriously if far too much information that is no longer sensitive remains classified."
"That is why I leave government equally proud of the unprecedented accomplishments in declassification that we in the executive branch have achieved over the past seven years. Long after all of us have been forgotten, these hundreds of millions of pages of declassified records will still be telling the story of our government and our nation."
Speaking to the American Society of Access Professionals, an audience comprised mainly of freedom of information officers and other government information workers, he extolled the importance of their work.
"What you do every day on the job is what is truly meaningful in the area of access to government information," he said. By comparison, official pronouncements like the recent Attorney General memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act are "all but meaningless."
"As an access professional, you play a critical role in establishing and maintaining the openness that sets us apart, that defines our democracy," Garfinkel said.
The prepared text of Mr. Garfinkel's remarks is posted here:
Garfinkel's colleagues and friends are organizing a celebration in his honor on January 30, 2002. Security clearances are not required. An invitation providing further information is posted here (in PowerPoint format):
BIOLOGICAL AGENT DATA EXEMPTED FROM DISCLOSURE
Congress is poised to adopt new legislation that will exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act information about the locations and quantities of certain biological agents and toxins.
The new FOIA exemption was included in the Senate version of the pending defense appropriations bill, adopted last week, and in a House bioterrorism response bill:
Similar language was also approved in the House in October.
"I don't have a problem with the FOIA exemption," said one government scientist, since it would apply "only to information that was collected for the purpose of implementing biological agent registration [of agent locations and quantities]."
"However, I wouldn't want this provision to prevent publication by an agency of a scientific paper attributed to a particular lab that makes it clear that select agents were used at that facility," the scientist said.
This unintended consequence could be averted by inserting a new provision in the legislation to permit disclosure for purposes of "promoting scientific research," in addition to the existing allowance for disclosure "protecting the public health and safety."
"I would personally argue that scientific research is necessary to protect public health and safety -- making this addition unnecessary -- but I'm not sure that everyone else would agree," the scientist said.
FRUS VOLUME ON GREECE DELAYED AGAIN
The long-delayed volume of the official Foreign Relations of the United States that documents US policy towards Greece and Cyprus in the mid-1960s is still delayed.
Release of some 1500 printed copies of the volume has been postponed for nearly two years, reportedly because of CIA concerns that documentation of its intervention in Greek elections four decades ago could precipitate acts of anti-US terrorism in Greece.
In an October 2001 status report, the State Department said the FRUS volume on Greece had a "publication target" of December 2001.
But a State Department official this week refused to comment on the volume's current status.
"I would if I could," said the official, who is ordinarily very helpful. But "I'm in the 'don't ask, don't tell' mode. So no comment."
No explanation for the new delay was immediately forthcoming. But in a possibly related development, the Greek newspaper Ta Nea in Athens reported on December 9 that US and UK security agencies are pressing "harder than ever" for apprehension of the Greek terrorist organization November 17. See:
WEN HO LEE DEPOSED
Former Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee was recently deposed in a lawsuit brought by the conservative activist organization Judicial Watch, representing former Energy Department intelligence official Notra Trulock.
Wen Ho Lee was the object of an aggressive prosecution in 1999-2000 that ultimately collapsed, with Lee pleading guilty to one felony count of mishandling classified information, while earning an apology from the court for the abuse that he endured in the course of his nine-month pre-trial incarceration.
Now Mr. Trulock and Judicial Watch are suing Wen Ho Lee for supposedly defaming Trulock.
But Lee said he didn't even know who Trulock was. "I know he sue me. That's all."
Among the lawsuit's allegations is the claim that Mr. Trulock was defamed by certain affidavits placed on the web site wenholee.org which suggested that Trulock was a racist or that he had singled out Lee for investigation because he was Chinese.
But the premise of this Judicial Watch claim is mistaken insofar as the affidavits in question were never posted on the wenholee.org web site, but rather were published on the Federation of American Scientists web site. Wenholee.org merely provided embedded links to the documents on the FAS site. (Besides which, Wen Ho Lee has no responsibility for the contents of his supporters' web site.)
The transcript of the fairly excruciating October 10 deposition of Lee was released late last month and is posted here:
The judge in the case ruled that Lee had improperly declined to answer too many of Judicial Watch's questions and a further deposition has been scheduled for later this month, according to an Associated Press report.
The indictment of suspected al Qaeda member Zacarias Moussaoui, announced by the Justice Department yesterday, is available here:
Members of the House of Representatives paid tribute to the late CIA officer Johnny Micheal Spann in a resolution adopted yesterday:
A bill "to provide for the sharing of certain foreign intelligence information with local law enforcement personnel" has been introduced by Senators Schumer, Clinton, Leahy and Hatch. See:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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