from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 121
December 10, 2002
9/11 PANEL URGES "MORE REALISTIC" SECRECY POLICIES
- 9/11 PANEL URGES "MORE REALISTIC" SECRECY POLICIES
- NETWORK CENTRIC INTELLIGENCE?
- SCIENCE, SECRECY AND NATIONAL SECURITY
- GAO LAWSUIT AGAINST VICE PRESIDENT DISMISSED
- ISTANBUL INTRIGUES
The congressional Joint Inquiry into September 11 will recommend revising government information policies not only to promote information sharing among government agencies, but also to expand public access to government information.
"The President should review and consider amendments to the Executive Orders, policies and procedures that govern the national security classification of intelligence information, in an effort to expand access to relevant information for federal agencies outside the Intelligence Community, for state and local authorities, and for the American public," according to the Joint Inquiry's draft Recommendation 14, which may be approved today.
This unexpected gesture towards public access apparently reflects the Joint Inquiry assessment, articulated by staff director Eleanor Hill on October 17, that "an alert and committed American public" could be "the most potent weapon" in the war against terrorism.
The draft Recommendation goes on to acknowledge that the government secrecy system is not as "realistic" as it should be and that it is routinely subject to abuse:
"Congress should consider the degree to which excessive classification has been used in the past and the extent to which the emerging threat environment has greatly increased the need for real-time sharing of sensitive information."The full text of the Recommendations will be formally released upon approval by the members of the Joint Inquiry.
"The [proposed] Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Attorney General, should review and report to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on proposals for a new and more realistic approach to the processes and structures that have governed the designation of sensitive and classified information."
"The report should include proposals to protect against the use of the classification process as a shield to protect agency self-interest."
NETWORK CENTRIC INTELLIGENCE?
The principal Recommendation of the congressional Joint Inquiry into September 11 is the establishment of a cabinet-level Director of National Intelligence. This rather innocuous proposal may be worth adopting, if only to demonstrate that any changes at all in the entrenched U.S. intelligence community can still be achieved.
In the long run, however, reinforcing the hierarchical structure of U.S. intelligence is unlikely to solve any important problems.
To the contrary. Instead of a super-Director of Central Intelligence, it may be more important to work to decentralize intelligence into fluid, opportunistic networks.
The role of loose networks in "massively multiplayer online games" -- which are essentially video games played by thousands of simultaneous players -- and their relevance for the conduct of military operations were suggestively described by David Ignatius in a Washington Post op-ed entitled "Outgaming Osama," December 6:
The concept of "network centric warfare" as applied to U.S. Navy programs, with citations to the relevant literature, was discussed in "Navy Network-Centric Warfare Concept: Key Programs and Issues for Congress" by Ronald O'Rourke of the Congressional Research Service, updated November 25, 2002:
The possible application of a similar approach to national intelligence -- which would serve no one's bureaucratic interests -- awaits further development.
SCIENCE, SECRECY AND NATIONAL SECURITY
The creation of the new Department of Homeland Security is likely to have significant implications for the conduct of U.S. science and technology programs, according to a lengthy assessment in the latest issue of Chemical and Engineering News.
"To carry out its mandate, this massive new Cabinet-level agency will have to marshal the skills of scientists and engineers to develop the technologies needed to prevent, protect against, and respond to future acts of terrorism," writes Lois R. Ember.
"But, some commentators point out, the law creating the department also sets up rules that restrict the flow of information to scientists and to the general public and may actually retard progress in securing the homeland."
See "Science in the Service of Security" by Lois R. Ember, Chemical and Engineering News, December 9:
The use of the still poorly defined term "sensitive but unclassified" as an information control category continues to generate much gnashing of teeth, as scientists and others worry about its potential scope of application.
See "Entering the Twilight Zone of What Material to Censor," by Martin Enserink, Science Magazine, November 22, p. 1548 (subscribers only):
A recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study on non-lethal weapons provides a remarkable case study of current convolutions in information disclosure policy.
"Before [the study] was published Nov. 4, its classification review became a yearlong tug of war between NAS and a Defense Department office, revealing just how difficult and contentious decisions about releasing government information can be following Sept. 11," according to a recent story in Inside the Navy.
The National Academy voiced frustration with its Pentagon sponsor for blocking publication, while the Academy itself became the target of criticism from the watchdog Sunshine Project for unaccountably withholding unclassified records and evading the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
The whole sorry episode is well told in "NAS Study Shows Messy Reality Tied To Balancing Security, Openness" by Christopher Castelli, Inside the Navy, December 2, reposted with permission here:
The National Academy announced that it will hold a day long forum on "Scientific Openness and National Security" on January 9, 2003.
GAO LAWSUIT AGAINST VICE PRESIDENT DISMISSED
In an affirmation of Bush Administration secrecy policy, a General Accounting Office (GAO) lawsuit against Vice President Cheney seeking records from the Vice President's Energy Task Force was dismissed by a federal judge as "historically unprecedented" and unsuited for judicial intervention. See:
The ruling was immediately denounced by congressional Democrats, who suggested that its outcome was determined by the fact that the judge, John D. Bates, was a Republican appointee.
"What is 'unprecedented' is not GAO's request for this information," said Rep. Henry Waxman, "but the Administration's refusal to provide the information. The reason that there has never been a case like this is that every other Administration has released this kind of information. There is ample precedent for GAO's request, but none for the Administration's refusal." See:
A richly anecdotal history of diplomacy and espionage in Istanbul during World War II is provided in a new edition of "Istanbul Intrigues" by Barry Rubin.
Drawing on interviews with principals and primary sources in multiple languages (but without scholarly apparatus), Rubin offers a highly readable account of the political and military ferment that characterized Istanbul in that momentous time.
Rubin is director of the Institute for Turkish Studies at the Global Research in International Affairs Center near Tel Aviv, Israel. The new edition of his book is published by Turkey's Bosphurus University Press in Istanbul. For more information, see:
Secrecy News welcomes review copies of new books on national security policy and related topics.
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