from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 60
July 8, 2002
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AROUND THE WORLD
- FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AROUND THE WORLD
- THE WEN HO LEE CASE REVISITED
- RECENT FOIA DECISIONS
- GOETHE'S THEORY OF COLORS RECONSIDERED
"In the last decade, 26 countries have enacted formal statutes guaranteeing their citizens' right of access to government information. Elsewhere, even without legal guarantees, citizens are asserting their right to know. Throughout the world, freedom of information movements are changing the definition of democratic governance."
That is the premise of freedominfo.org, a new web site that is intended to serve as an international resource on freedom of information policy.
"This site is a one-stop portal that describes best practices, consolidates lessons learned, explains campaign strategies and tactics, and links the efforts of freedom-of-information advocates around the world," according to the new site, which is sponsored by the National Security Archive. See:
THE WEN HO LEE CASE REVISITED
The aborted espionage investigation of former Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee continues to provide food for thought and controversy.
In a pointed exchange of letters in Commentary magazine (July-August 2002), former Energy Department intelligence official Notra Trulock defends his role in the Lee case against probing criticism leveled by Commentary editor Gabriel Schoenfeld. Other letter writers criticize the use of polygraph testing and question FBI competence. See:
Recent books on the case by reporters Dan Stober and Ian Hoffman, and by Wen Ho Lee himself, are reviewed by Wolfgang K.H. Panofsky in the July-August issue of American Scientist:
The two books are also reviewed by Stephen I. Schwartz in the latest Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists [www.thebulletin.org] (not yet online).
None of the histories of the Wen Ho Lee case published so far has seen fit to recall the protester at a September 2000 demonstration in New Mexico who held up a drawing of a pinto bean with the caption: "Free Ho Lee."
RECENT FOIA DECISIONS
The Justice Department Office of Information and Privacy has published summaries of the latest judicial decisions in Freedom of Information Act cases. See "New FOIA Decisions, April-June 2002," part of a continuing series, here:
The pending Federation of American Scientists Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA that seeks declassification of the current intelligence budget total was noted by Vernon Loeb in his July 1 "IntelligenCIA" column in the Washington Post online here:
GOETHE'S THEORY OF COLORS RECONSIDERED
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) is remembered as a poet (Faust), a novelist (Sorrows of Young Werther, Elective Affinities, Wilhelm Meister), and a titan of German and European culture. Few would think of him primarily, or at all, as a notable scientific figure.
But to Goethe himself, "his Theory of Colors was the work which he believed had earned him a major place in world history," wrote Rudiger Safranski.
"Of whatever I have achieved as a poet I have no high opinion at all," Goethe said in his Conversations with Eckermann. "There were excellent poets living alongside me, there were even more excellent ones before me, and there will be such poets after me. But that in my century I alone am the one who in the difficult science of color theory knows the truth-- that I consider a feather in my cap, and I therefore have a sense of superiority over many."
The problem is that "Goethe's explanation of color makes no physical sense at all," wrote physicist Deane B. Judd in a 1969 introduction to the translation of Goethe's 1810 Farbenlehre (Theory of Colors).
And yet there is rigor in Goethe's experiments with color and originality in his investigation that have kept this odd volume alive for nearly two centuries.
These qualities are newly examined by Neil Ribe and Friedrich Steinle in the latest issue of Physics Today. See their article "Exploratory Experimentation: Goethe, Land, and Color Theory" here:
The literary critic Erich Heller memorably discussed "Goethe and the Idea of Scientific Truth" in his 1975 book "The Disinherited Mind: Essays in Modern German Literature and Thought."
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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