from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 64
July 12, 2004
SECRECY AND THE FAILURE OF INTELLIGENCE The errors, inadequacies and deceptions of U.S. intelligence regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were aggravated by excessive secrecy, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found in its new report. The abuse of secrecy is a leitmotif in the latest critique on intelligence, as in its many of its predecessors. So, for example, the Senate Committee observes in its Conclusion 6: "Another significant problem found by the Committee is the fact that the CIA continues to excessively compartment sensitive HUMINT [human intelligence] reporting and fails to share important information about HUMINT reporting and sources with Intelligence Community analysts who have a need to know." "In the years before Operation Iraqi Freedom, the CIA protected its Iraq weapons of mass destruction sources so well that some of the information they provided was kept from the majority of analysts with a legitimate need to know." Excessive secrecy not only impeded information sharing but also made it more difficult to detect analytical errors or policymaker exaggerations once they had occurred. Furthermore, secrecy obstructed external oversight, with costs that are well known. Because it is a systemic failure, information policy within the intelligence bureaucracy would be a promising point of departure for intelligence reform. More than any other structural or organizational change, pursuit of a revised information policy could optimize the existing strengths of intelligence and combat its debilitating weaknesses. "As vital as secrecy is to intelligence," said Acting Director of Central Intelligence John E. McLaughlin in a June 23 speech, "it must never become a wall that prevents an open, honest dialogue with the American public." But then he added defensively and inaccurately: "And it has not." The National Security Archive (www.nsarchive.org) reported last week that the CIA has continued to withhold almost all of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, as if "an open, honest dialogue with the American public" could now be conducted without reference to this key document. A copy of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence "Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq" is available here:
- SECRECY AND THE FAILURE OF INTELLIGENCE
- SEEKING THE PROPER BOUNDARIES OF NUCLEAR SECRECY
- RELEASE OF IG REPORTS ON FBI TRANSLATION PROGRAM SOUGHT
- SOME NEW CRS PRODUCTS
- VOICE TO SKULL: MORE ARMY WEB SHENANIGANS
SEEKING THE PROPER BOUNDARIES OF NUCLEAR SECRECYA new research paper asks what sorts of nuclear weapons information should be secret, what should be public, and exactly where the line between the two should be drawn. "Future progress in nuclear arms control and disarmament will be strongly dependent on an increase of transparency of nuclear-weapons-related information," writes author Annette Schaper of the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany. "This report aims to identify technical information that is relevant for nuclear verification, to discover whether it is publicly available or secret, and then to identify where the ideal demarcation line between secrecy and transparency might lie." See "Looking for a Demarcation between Nuclear Transparency and Nuclear Secrecy" by Dr. Annette Schaper, PRIF Reports No. 68, Frankfurt am Main, 2004:
RELEASE OF IG REPORTS ON FBI TRANSLATION PROGRAM SOUGHTSenators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) asked the Department of Justice to prepare declassified versions of two newly completed Inspector General reports on the FBI translation program, including a review of allegations by former FBI Sibel Edmonds. "Two years after the allegations made by Ms. Edmonds triggered two investigations, we are no closer to determining the scope of the problem, the pervasiveness and seriousness of FBI problems in this area, or what the FBI intends to do to rectify personnel shortages, security issues, translation inaccuracies and other problems that have plagued the translator program for years," the Senators wrote. "While the needs of national security must be weighed seriously, we fear that the designation of information as classified in some cases serves to protect the executive branch against embarrassing revelations and full accountability. We hope that is not the case here. Releasing declassified versions of these reports, or at least portions or summaries, would serve the public's interest, increase transparency, promote effectiveness and efficiency at the FBI, and facilitate Congressional oversight." See their July 9 letter here:
SOME NEW CRS PRODUCTSUnder the current regime, Americans are not permitted to have direct online access to Congressional Research Service reports through the CRS website. Members of the public may request a copy of any CRS report they like, but no list of CRS titles is made available by Congress from which they could select reports of interest to request. An election is coming. In the meantime, here are several new or updated CRS reports on national security policy topics. "Terrorism and National Security: Issues and Trends," CRS Issue Brief, updated July 6, 2004:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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