Posts from April, 2006

Disfavored CIA Reports Placed Online

U.S. News and World Report reported last January that at least three publications of the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, all critical of the Agency, had been withheld from the CIA web site (“A Tangled Web Woven,” by David E. Kaplan, U.S. News, January 30, 2006).

Now two of those disfavored publications are available on the Federation of American Scientists web site. The third will follow.

“Intelligence for a New Era in American Foreign Policy” (1.3 MB pdf) is the report of a conference convened by the Center for the Study of Intelligence, published in January 2004.

“Analytic Culture in the U.S. Intelligence Community: An Ethnographic Study” (8 MB pdf) is an interesting and unusual effort to assess intelligence analysis from an anthropological viewpoint, published in 2005.

It is a small irony of the Information Age that by attempting to selectively withhold these publications from the web, the CIA has practically guaranteed that more people will read them than would have otherwise done so.

But CIA seems to have little understanding of that fact, and the Agency’s efforts to suppress criticism are as relentless as they are self-defeating.

“The CIA has imposed new and tighter restrictions on the books, articles, and opinion pieces published by former employees who are still contractors with the intelligence agency,” writes Shane Harris.

See “Silencing the Squeaky Wheel” by Shane Harris, National Journal, April 27.

See also “Excessive Secrecy Hurting CIA Studies” by Shaun Waterman, UPI, April 27.

FAS Statement on Personnel Security (1954)

When the government revoked the security clearance of J. Robert Oppenheimer on purported national security grounds in April 1954, it sent shock waves through the scientific community and elsewhere.

If Oppenheimer, the man who had done more than any other individual to advance the development of the atomic bomb, was a security risk to the nation, then who might not be?

In the aftermath of the Oppenheimer proceeding, the Federation of American Scientists issued two short statements (pdf) on how to improve personnel security policy so as “to safeguard the rights of present and prospective government employees and to promote the true security of the nation.”

The FAS statements, presented to Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Lewis L. Strauss in July 1954, still have some pertinence today.

Secrecy News’ friend Priscilla McMillan’s superb account of the security proceeding against Oppenheimer has just been published in paperback.

See “The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer” by Priscilla J. McMillan, Penguin Books, 2006.

Odds and Ends

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) filed an amendment that would prohibit all funding for the NSA domestic surveillance program unless and until the Bush Administration keeps Congress fully and currently informed of the program as required by law.

The Bush Administration welcomed the House version of the 2007 Intelligence Authorization Act for the most part, but also found several objectionable points. A White House statement (pdf) expressed opposition to one provision that required submission to Congress of an inventory of intelligence special access programs, and to another that would grant congressional access to portions of the intelligence community computer network.

The Justice Department has prepared detailed guidance for executive branch agencies to assist them in complying with President Bush’s Executive Order 13392 on “Improving Agency Disclosure of Information,” which was intended to enhance the operation of the Freedom of Information Act.

Some More CRS Reports

Some notable new reports of the Congressional Research Service include the following:

“The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11″ (pdf), April 24, 2006.

“Arab League Boycott of Israel” (pdf), April 19, 2006.

“U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress”
(pdf), updated April 17, 2006.

“Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Peace Talks, Terrorism, and U.S. Policy” (pdf), updated April 12, 2006.

“Nonproliferation and Threat Reduction Assistance: U.S. Programs in the Former Soviet Union” (pdf), updated April 6, 2006.

“Afghanistan: Post-War Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy” (pdf), updated April 6, 2006.

“China-Southeast Asia Relations: Trends, Issues, and Implications for the United States” (pdf), updated April 4, 2006.

Archive Audit Suggests Overclassification is Rampant

A large fraction of the documents that were withdrawn from public access at the National Archives on purported national security grounds over the past several years did not meet the standard for classification and should not have been removed, according to an official audit of the activity released yesterday.

“This audit identified a significant number of withdrawal actions for classification purposes as inappropriate. Of the records sampled to date, 24 percent were clearly inappropriate and 12 percent were questionable.”

While focused on historical documents at the National Archives, the audit serves in effect as a snapshot of classification activity throughout the government, and it implies that a sizeable fraction of agency classification actions have no legitimate national security basis.

“To be effective, the classification process is a tool that must be wielded with precision,” said William Leonard (pdf), director of the Information Security Oversight Office, which performed the audit at the direction of Archivist Allen Weinstein.

“It is disappointing to note, as indicated by the sample contained in this audit, that even trained classifiers, with ready access to the latest classification and declassification guides, and trained in their use, got it clearly right only 64% of the time in making determinations as to the appropriateness of continued classification,” Mr. Leonard said.

“The damage such practices can inflict on the integrity of the classification system cannot be denied,” he said.

At a time when the Bush Administration is prosecuting even the receipt of classified information, and Members of Congress are seeking new measures to penalize leaks, the new data on overclassification tend to undermine the very premise of such actions.

Archivist Weinstein and Mr. Leonard of ISOO announced a series of steps to address the immediate issue of document withdrawal at the Archives as well as the larger issue of overclassification and misclassification.

“I am writing to all agency heads asking for their personal attention in ensuring that all of us engaged in advancing our country’s security perform our duty to ensure the highest effectiveness of this critical national security tool (i.e. classification),” Mr. Leonard said.

He said that several of the existing provisions in the executive order and implementing directive on classification could help to mitigate classification errors, including: challenges to classification, sanctions for unwarranted classification, and audits of classified collections.

“They just haven’t been used,” he said.

“Secret” 1970 Intelligence Budget Revealed

In 1970, the U.S. spent $6 billion on intelligence, according to a newly published account of a meeting that President Richard M. Nixon held with his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board in July 1970.

“The President stated that the US is spending $6 billion per year on intelligence and deserves to receive a lot more for its money than it has been getting,” stated the record of the meeting, which was published in the latest volume of the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States series.

What makes this observation startling rather than banal is that the Central Intelligence Agency has gone to great lengths to try to keep such historical intelligence budget data out of the public domain.

In response to a 2001 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for aggregate and individual intelligence agency budget figures from 1947 through 1970, the CIA fought for five years to block disclosure of such information. Last year, D.C. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled in favor of the CIA (Aftergood v. CIA, Case No. 01-2524).

John E. McLaughlin, then-Acting Director of Central Intelligence, swore under oath that such disclosures could not be tolerated.

“Disclosure of [historical] intelligence budget information could assist in finding the locations of secret intelligence appropriations and thus defeat… congressionally approved clandestine funding mechanisms,” argued Mr. McLaughlin in a September 14, 2004 declaration (pdf).

Now some of the historical intelligence budget information that the CIA refused to disclose has been published by the U.S. State Department.

See “Record of President’s Meeting with the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board,” July 18, 1970.

President Nixon “could not put up with people lying to him about intelligence or giving warped evaluations,” the 1970 document continued.

“He believed that those responsible for deliberate slanting of reports should be fired. The time may be coming when he would have to read the riot act to the entire intelligence community.”

House Limits Debate on Largest Intelligence Budget Ever

House Republicans foreclosed Democratic efforts to offer amendments on warrantless domestic surveillance and other controversial intelligence topics when the FY 2007 Intelligence Authorization Act was brought to the floor yesterday.

Instead, the House approved by a vote of 327-96 what Rep. Leonard Boswell (R-Iowa) described as “the largest intelligence budget in our history.”

Democratic amendments, such as a proposal that domestic surveillance be conducted consistent with the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, were blocked in the Rules Committee so they could not be debated.

“We are not even going to be allowed to vote on an amendment that would deal with this central constitutional question,” complained Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).

“We are now in the process of instructing the people of Iraq about how to ruin parliamentary democracy,” he said. “If anybody from the Iraqi Parliament is watching our procedures, please do not try this at home.”

See the April 26 House floor debate here.

The House Rules Committee report which identifies the Democratic amendments that were ruled out of order is House Report 109-438.

Feinstein Bill Seeks Congressional Notice of Declassification

In the Senate, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) yesterday introduced a bill to require the White House to notify Congress when it declassifies intelligence information.

The bill was prompted by recent reports that the President selectively authorized certain disclosures by Vice Presidential aide Scooter Libby without informing the originating agency or other interested persons that the disclosed information was declassified.

“If the President declassifies information so that his subordinates can discuss intelligence with reporters, Congress should be alerted so that the intelligence committees can ensure that national secrets are not being used for political purposes,” said Sen. Feinstein. See the introduction of her bill (S. 2660) here.

Selected CRS Reports

Some recent reports of the Congressional Research Service obtained by Secrecy News include the following:

“Renditions: Constraints Imposed by Laws on Torture” (pdf), updated April 5, 2006.

“Treatment of ‘Battlefield Detainees’ in the War on Terrorism” (pdf), updated March 27, 2006.

“Polygraph Use by the Department of Energy: Issues for Congress” (pdf), updated April 7, 2006.

“Oversight of Dual-Use Biological Research: The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity” (pdf), March 28, 2006.

“Nuclear Weapons: The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program” (pdf), updated March 9, 2006.

Intelligence Fusion Centers Emerge Across the U.S.

The contours of the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy are expanding to include dozens of new “intelligence fusion centers” based around the country.

An intelligence fusion center is “a collaborative effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise, and/or information to the center with the goal of maximizing the ability to detect, prevent, apprehend, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.”

A list of state and regional intelligence fusion centers (pdf) that have been established as of March 2006 was obtained by Secrecy News.

Last year, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security published guidelines for the operation of fusion centers dealing with law enforcement intelligence.

See “Fusion Center Guidelines: Developing and Sharing Information and Intelligence in a New World,” July 2005 (1.8 MB PDF).

So far, the fusion centers have not been an unqualified success. State officials express growing unhappiness with the contribution of federal intelligence agencies, according to a new survey (pdf) from the National Governors Association:

“Sixty percent of responding state homeland security directors are dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with the specificity of the intelligence they receive from the federal government. An additional 55 percent are dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with the actionable quality of the intelligence they receive from the federal government.”

“These numbers represent a sharp increase from the combined dissatisfied/somewhat dissatisfied percentages from the previous year,” according to the April 5 NGA survey.

The fusion centers are one aspect of a broader effort to promote sharing of intelligence information within the government.

The Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 (section 1016) called for the creation of an Information Sharing Environment (ISE), which is defined as “an approach that facilitates the sharing of terrorism information, which approach may include any methods determined necessary.”

This too is a work in progress, at best, that remains far from achieving its objective.

“More than 4 years after September 11, the nation still lacks the government-wide policies and processes that Congress called for to provide a framework for guiding and integrating the myriad of ongoing efforts to improve the sharing of terrorism-related information critical to protecting our homeland,” the Government Accountability Office stated in a report (pdf) published last week.

Selected resources on the ISE are available here.

It should be noted that “information sharing” in this context does not extend to public disclosure of government information. To the contrary, information sharing policies may even create new barriers to public access through the use of non-disclosure agreements and similar devices.