SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 31
April 19, 2010

Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/

DHS SAYS IT CANNOT STOP PRIVATE POSTING OF SENSITIVE INFO

The law does not authorize the Department of Homeland Security to regulate or penalize the publication of sensitive transportation security-related information on private websites, the Department advised Congress recently.

Last December, the Transportation Security Administration inadvertently posted a manual marked "sensitive security information" that described procedures for screening of airline passengers. Following its discovery, the manual was removed from government websites, but it had already been mirrored on non-governmental websites that continue to host the document.

What is DHS going to do about that?, several members of Congress wanted to know. The answer is this: nothing.

"How has the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration addressed the repeated reposting of this security manual to other websites and what legal action, if any, can be taken to compel its removal?" wrote Reps. Peter T. King (R-NY), Charles W. Dent (R-PA) and Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL) on December 9.

"No action has been initiated by the agency to address reposting on other web sites," DHS replied in a February 7 response that was released this month under the Freedom of Information Act. Existing "statutes do not provide specific authority to remedy the dissemination of SSI [sensitive security information] by noncovered persons [who are not subject to DHS jurisdiction]."

If Congress wanted to try to compel removal of such material from public websites, DHS said, "specific new statutory authority... would be necessary to provide enhanced legal support to pursue the full range of civil and criminal remedies against unauthorized dissemination of SSI by persons who are not covered persons as defined by 49 C.F.R. 1520.7."


"TORTURE AND THE OLC," AND OTHER NEW HEARING VOLUMES

By authorizing extreme interrogation methods and defining them as legally permissible, the Bush Administration's Office of Legal Counsel enabled "our country's descent into torture," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) last year at a contentious hearing of a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee that he chaired. The hearing presented contrasting views on a range of related issues, including whether or not the Bush Administration's "enhanced interrogation" program constituted torture under international law. The 695 page record of the hearing was published late last month, with voluminous attachments and submissions for the record. See "What Went Wrong: Torture and the Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush Administration," May 13, 2009:

Other noteworthy new congressional hearing volumes include the following.

"The Proposed U.S.-UAE Agreement on Civilian Nuclear Cooperation," Senate Foreign Relations Committee, October 7, 2009 (published March 2010):

"The Impact of U.S. Export Controls on National Security, Science and Technological Leadership," House Foreign Affairs Committee, January 15, 2010 (published March 2010):


ODNI REPORT ON DATA MINING: WE DON'T DO IT

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence says it does not practice data mining in the narrow sense of searching databases to find anomalous patterns that could be indicative of terrorist activity. So the latest ODNI annual report to Congress on data mining programs (the third such report) has little new information to offer.

Instead of data mining, narrowly defined, the ODNI and other intelligence agencies use "link analysis," which involves searches that begin with a known or suspected terrorist or intelligence target and work backwards and forwards from there. But such "link analysis" is outside the strict definition of "data mining," ODNI says, and so it is not discussed further in the new annual report.

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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