from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 29
March 3, 2006
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- STATE DEPT INTELLIGENCE TRACKED RISING POPULARITY OF HAMAS
- ARCHIVES DECLARES MORATORIUM ON RECLASSIFICATION
- FILE UNDER: SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
STATE DEPT INTELLIGENCE TRACKED RISING POPULARITY OF HAMAS
"I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas' strong showing," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, referring to the landslide victory of the Islamic Hamas party in the January 25 Palestinian elections. Hamas won 76 out of 132 seats in the Palestinian legislature, compared to 43 seats for the ruling Fatah party."I've asked why nobody saw it coming and I hope that we will take a hard look, because it does say something about perhaps not having had a good enough pulse on the Palestinian population," she told reporters on January 29. It sounded like a confession of another failure of U.S. intelligence, having been stymied once again by the intricacies of Middle Eastern politics. But despite Secretary Rice's odd protestations, no one did a better job of tracking the growing popularity of Hamas than the State Department's own intelligence analysts. "When the parties [Hamas and Fatah] are directly compared, likely voters tend to see Hamas as more qualified to clean up corruption, resist occupation, and uphold societal values," the analysts reported in a January 19, 2006, pre-election assessment obtained by Secrecy News. "A lack of hope in the peace process may also contribute to support for Hamas. Likely voters who have little or no hope that there will be a peaceful resolution to the conflict clearly prefer Hamas (30%) to Fateh (12%)." Though they did not explicitly predict a Hamas victory, the State Department intelligence bureau reported on the steady rise in popular support for the Islamic party, which they said made it newly competitive with Fatah. "A just-completed Office of Research survey in the Palestinian Territories shows a much closer race at the polls than some have predicted," the assessment stated. (The Office of Research is a component of the Bureau of the Intelligence and Research [INR], which is the State Department intelligence unit.) "The likely success of Hamas at the polls reflects the long-term rise of public trust in the party. The proportion in the January survey who say they trust Hamas matches the historic high of 27%, first seen in spring 2005, and represents a 6 point increase since November." The State Department intelligence assessment is marked "For Official Use Only." See "Hamas and Fateh Neck and Neck As Palestinian Elections Near," January 19, 2006:
("Fateh" is the preferred INR spelling for "Fatah." Due to a typographical error, the first page of the January 2006 analysis is dated 2005.)The State Department's intelligence bureau is widely considered to be among the most independent-minded and competent members of the U.S. intelligence community. In 2002, it famously dissented from the erroneous view that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. Not coincidentally, it is also the least secretive of U.S. intelligence agencies.
ARCHIVES DECLARES MORATORIUM ON RECLASSIFICATION
In a rather vigorous response to the controversy over the withdrawal of thousands of declassified historical records from the National Archives on purported national security grounds, the Archivist of the United States announced that such withdrawals would be halted, at least temporarily, while an audit and investigation of the matter is conducted.Archivist Allen Weinstein declared a "moratorium" on the removal or reclassification of "any declassified records currently on the public shelves at the National Archives until the audit, conducted by the National Archives Information Security Oversight Office, is complete." See "Archivist of the United States Announces New Steps in Response to Withdrawal of Declassified Records from Open Shelves at the National Archives," news release, March 2:
See also "Archivist Urges U.S. to Reopen Classified Files" by Scott Shane, New York Times, March 3:
FILE UNDER: SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
Lists of radio frequencies assigned to the U.S. Air Force's Civil Air Patrol (CAP) will henceforth be withheld from public disclosure, according to a January 2006 memorandum from the CAP National Commander."It has come to our attention that the radio frequency assignments provided us by the USAF are considered sensitive information and require protection from unauthorized release," wrote Maj. General Antonio J. Pineda. "Such [information] must be removed from public access, such as on the Web, and may not be released to outside agencies without coordination," he wrote. "As we prepare for an increased role in Homeland Security, it is very likely we will encounter additional information requiring our protection." "A rigid stance on information security shows that we continue to be a professional partner in the defense of our nation," he wrote. "A rigid stance on information security," of course, is the source and the driver of a whole set of other problems. But that is beyond the scope of this memo. See "Protection of Radio Frequency Information," US Air Force Civil Air Patrol, January 20, 2006:
Also in the sensitive but unclassified (SBU) category is the Department of Energy's venerable "Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information" (UCNI) marking.Unlike most other SBU designations, UCNI has been defined with some specificity. Official guidelines spell out exactly what is and what is not within its proper boundaries. UCNI is also authorized by statute, not invented out of whole cloth, and it carries enormous financial penalties for those who disclose it without authorization. For these reasons, it will be a particular challenge to integrate UCNI policy into a uniform, government-wide policy on sensitive but unclassified information. For official guidance on UCNI, see "Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information, General Guideline GG-5," Department of Energy, February 2004:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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