from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 98
November 6, 2003
TENSION ERUPTS ON INTELLIGENCE OVERSIGHT
- TENSION ERUPTS ON INTELLIGENCE OVERSIGHT
- PENTAGON REPORT ON ARMS SALES
- MURDER WILL OUT: WAR CRIMES RESURFACE
- BUTLER TRIAL PROCEEDS
- BIOWEAPONS AND BIODEFENSE TRANSPARENCY
- ODDS AND ENDS
More than ever before, the quality and performance of U.S. intelligence are today being called into question. But at this time of urgent questioning, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has little or nothing to offer the American public.
Unlike its House counterpart, the Senate Intelligence Committee hasn't held an open hearing for months. Nor has it issued any kind of preliminary findings or provided other insight.
If it vanished suddenly, how would anyone know?
The Committee web site hasn't been updated for months. The most recent Committee press release, issued by Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) last July, complains of "press leaks by the CIA in an effort to discredit the President" -- an eccentric reading of events, to say the least. The web site provides a link to executive order 12356 on classification policy, which was revoked more than eight years ago, but there is no link to its successors. There is a spelling error ("jurisdicton") on every page.
Judging by the available external evidence, this Committee is not in good shape.
Unsurprisingly, a degree of tension has developed between the majority Republicans and the minority Democrats on the Committee. It came to a head this week in response to an uncirculated draft memo written by a minority staffer that urged a more aggressive posture for Committee Democrats, which might culminate in an attempt to establish an independent Commission on intelligence and the Iraq war, an option Congress has previously rejected.
"We have an important role to play in the revealing the misleading -- if not flagrantly dishonest methods and motives -- of the senior administration officials who made the case for a unilateral, preemptive war," the uncirculated draft memo stated.
More in sorrow than in anger, and more in gleeful spite than in sorrow, Senators denounced what they viewed as an expression of partisanship.
"It is a disgusting possibility that Members of the Senate would actually try to politicize intelligence, especially at a time of war, even apparently reaching conclusions before investigations have been performed," said Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ).
Senators aired their views of the matter on November 5 here:
Meanwhile, in a genuinely constructive act of bipartisan oversight of intelligence, two House subcommittee leaders this week challenged the CIA's refusal to comply with their request for a copy of the recent report by David Kay on the search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
"We do not understand why you are refusing to provide Mr. Kay's report," wrote Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) in a November 3 letter to DCI George Tenet. See:
PENTAGON REPORT ON ARMS SALES
A newly disclosed Department of Defense report provides data on arms sales and military services exported to foreign countries in 2002.
"This report provides the most detailed official accounting available of specific U.S. weapons systems exported or licensed for export to governments or private buyers around the world," said Matt Schroeder of the FAS Arms Sales Monitoring Project, which obtained the report from DoD in declassified form under the Freedom of Information Act.
The DoD report and a companion report from the State Department are posted here:
MURDER WILL OUT: WAR CRIMES RESURFACE
With grimly coincidental timing, several news accounts of atrocities in wartime have recently been published, thanks to the journalistic acumen of their authors as well as the availability of historical records.
A U.S. Army unit was allegedly responsible for killing hundreds of civilians in Vietnam in 1967, according to an investigative series published by the Toledo Blade:
A reported 1951 massacre of Korean prisoners of war by U.S. Marines, long covered up, was uncovered by Eric Longabardi, Kit R. Roane, and Edward T. Pound in a November 3 story in U.S. News and World Report:
A Bedouin girl was raped and murdered by an Israeli army unit in 1947, according to an account by Aviv Lavie and Moshe Gorali published last week in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz:
BUTLER TRIAL PROCEEDS
The controversial trial of infectious disease specialist Thomas C. Butler on charges of mishandling biological agents is proceeding in Lubbock, Texas this week.
Valuable daily coverage of the trial is being provided by David Malakoff of Science Magazine. In one odd tidbit, Malakoff noted that Butler's defense is proposing to call former Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee, who was himself the target of an aborted espionage investigation, as a witness. See:
Other resources on the Butler case are available here:
BIOWEAPONS AND BIODEFENSE TRANSPARENCY
The Sunshine Project, a public interest group opposed to development and use of biological weapons, has established a new initiative to advocate transparency in biodefense research.
The Bioweapons and Biodefense Freedom of Information Fund (to which I am an adviser) will promote publication of declassified and unclassified biodefense documentation in the interests of public awareness and government accountability on this crucial topic. See:
ODDS AND ENDS
The House Intelligence Committee held a hearing yesterday on the need to increase diversity among employees in intelligence agencies. The prepared testimony from that hearing, as released by the Committee, is available here:
But some of that testimony was altered before presentation at the instruction of the Justice Department, reports Shaun Waterman of United Press International. "Congressional Democrats said the Justice Department had recalled the testimony because some of it conflicted with the administration's position on affirmative action." See:
A bill introduced in the House this week would promote the exchange of personnel between federal and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The bill envisions, for example, that CIA employees could be detailed to local law enforcement agencies, and vice versa. See the JTTF Enhancement Act of 2003, introduced by Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Martin Frost, here:
Free speech advocates this week filed an amicus brief in a proceeding challenging the provision of the USA Patriot that could permit FBI access to library and bookseller records in counterterrorism investigations. See:
John Prados looks at JFK and the 1963 Diem coup in the latest document reader from the National Security Archive:
One more from the Congressional Research Service: "International Terrorism in South Asia" by K. Alan Kronstadt, November 3:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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