Posts from January, 2007

Selected CRS Reports

Some recent reports of the Congressional Research Service that are not readily available in the public domain include the following (all pdf).

“Department of Homeland Security Grants to State and Local Governments: FY2003 to FY2006,” December 22, 2006.

“International Crises and Disasters: U.S. Humanitarian Assistance, Budget Trends, and Issues for Congress,” December 21, 2006.

“Cuba: Issues for the 109th Congress,” updated December 19, 2006.

“Russian Natural Gas: Regional Dependence,” January 5, 2007.

and before Jeff Stein calls, take a look at “Islam: Sunnis and Shiites,” updated December 11, 2006.

Lawsuit Against CIA Dismissed on State Secrets Grounds

Declaring that the need to protect government secrets overrides all other considerations, a federal court yesterday dismissed (pdf) a lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency filed by family members of a former CIA clandestine officer who alleged injuries that are largely classified.

The CIA invoked the state secrets privilege in its motion for dismissal, and the court said it had no choice but to grant the Agency’s motion.

Relatively little about the case — captioned Jane Doe, et al v. Central Intelligence Agency — is on the public record. The plaintiffs are the wife and children of a former CIA officer who remains under cover. According to the heavily redacted complaint (pdf), the officer was “summarily separated from his CIA employment.” He and his wife both suffered symptoms of severe depression, but CIA “refused to provide any assistance, medical or otherwise.” The lawsuit sought compensation for loss of income and other damages.

Last March, then-CIA Director Porter Goss invoked the state secrets privilege in opposing the lawsuit.

“No procedures exist that can adequately safeguard the sensitive classified information implicated in this case and prevent its unauthorized disclosure during the course of litigation,” Director Goss wrote.

Plaintiffs disputed that uncompromising assertion. It’s “yet another example of an abuse of the privilege,” said Mark S. Zaid, attorney for Jane Doe.

But yesterday the court sided with the CIA.

“Although the claims that Plaintiffs have attempted to litigate are… very serious ones that appear to go to matters fundamental to the lives of the plaintiff family members, the Court is constrained to dismiss this case,” wrote Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the Southern District of New York in a January 4, 2007 order.

“Even the most compelling necessity cannot overcome the claim of privilege if the court is ultimately satisfied that… secrets are at stake,” the Judge wrote, quoting from the 1953 Supreme Court case U.S. v. Reynolds.

An earlier stage of the Doe case was reported in “Citing Security, C.I.A. Seeks Suit’s Dismissal” by Julia Preston, New York Times, April 18, 2006. Selected case files from Jane Doe et al v. CIA are posted here.

“Plaintiff Jane Doe alleges that she … ‘lives in constant fear’,” Judge Swain’s new order noted in passing. But “the reason for her alleged fear is redacted as classified.”

CRS Views EPA Library Closures

Last October the Environmental Protection Agency closed five of its libraries, including the headquarters library in Washington DC, and limited public access at four others.

EPA said the closures were part of an ongoing restructuring and that public demand for EPA records would be increasingly satisfied online. Public interest groups and librarians warned that valuable documentary resources were in danger of being lost or destroyed.

A report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service fleshes out some new details of the library closures and finds some cause for concern.

“EPA determined that the utility of some of its libraries had declined as the agency has made more information available through the Internet, and as heightened security at its facilities has led to fewer public visitors,” CRS observed.

But “Which materials will be retained, dispersed, or discarded, and the amount of time and funding needed to complete this [restructuring] process, are uncertain.”

See “Restructuring EPA’s Libraries: Background and Issues for Congress,” updated January 3, 2007.

More from CRS

Some other recent products of the Congressional Research Service that are not readily available in the public domain include the following (all pdf).

“U.S. Army and Marine Corps Equipment Requirements: Background and Issues for Congress,” December 20, 2006.

“U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 1998-2005,”
December 15, 2006.

“‘Terrorism’ and Related Terms in Statute and Regulation: Selected Language,” updated December 5, 2006.

“Incapacity of a Member of the Senate,” December 15, 2006.

Various Resources

National Security Agency director Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander answered dozens of questions for the record related to NSA surveillance activities following a September 6 July 26, 2006 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “FISA for the 21st Century.” That hearing record has not yet been published, but General Alexander’s 35 page response to Senators’ questions is available here (pdf).

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office “examines the costs and potential performance of four possible designs for a Space Radar system.” See “Alternatives for Military Space Radar” (pdf), Congressional Budget Office, January 2007.

“Joint Operation Planning” (pdf) is a new publication from the Joint Chiefs of Staffs that “reflects the current doctrine for conducting joint, interagency, and multinational planning activities across the full range of military operations.” See Joint Publication 5-0, December 26, 2006.

A newly released opinion (pdf) from the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel advises that the open meeting requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act do not apply when government officials consult non-governmental individuals (as opposed to committees). Nor do they apply to government meetings with non-governmental groups, says OLC, as long as the members of the groups only provide their opinions as individuals, and not as a collective. See “Application of Federal Advisory Committee Act to Non-Governmental Consultations,” Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel, December 7, 2001 (released January 3, 2007).

A conference entitled “Covering the New Secrecy: The Press and Public Policy” (pdf) and sponsored by the Knight-Wallace Fellows will be held at the University of Michigan on January 8.

FBI Gives Up Pursuit of Jack Anderson Papers

The Federal Bureau of Investigation advised Congress last month that it will no longer seek to recover classified information that may be contained in the collected papers of the late Jack Anderson.

The FBI “is not seeking to reclaim any documents,” the Bureau said in response to a question from Senator Arlen Specter.

The FBI statement (pdf) was contained in the answers to questions for the record from a May 2, 2006 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on FBI Oversight that were posted on the Federation of American Scientists web site by Secrecy News yesterday.

The Associated Press today noted the FBI’s renunciation of its pursuit of the Jack Anderson papers. Earlier in 2006, the Bureau had expressed concern that the Anderson archive may contain classified indication and approached the Anderson family to review the collection.

See “FBI Drops Its Quest for Papers of Reporter” by Laura Jakes Jordan, Associated Press, and Wendy Leonard, Deseret Morning News, January 4.

Wikileaks and Untraceable Document Disclosure

A new internet initiative called Wikileaks seeks to promote good government and democratization by enabling anonymous disclosure and publication of confidential government records.

“WikiLeaks is developing an uncensorable version of WikiPedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis,” according to the project web site.

“Our primary targets are highly oppressive regimes in China, Russia, central eurasia, the middle east and sub-saharan Africa, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their own governments and corporations.”

“A system [that] enables everyone to leak safely to a ready audience is the most cost effective means of promoting good government — in health and medicine, in food supply, in human rights, in arms control and democratic institutions.”

Wikileaks says that it has already acquired over one million documents that it is now preparing for publication.

The project web site is not yet fully “live.” But an initial offering — a document purportedly authored by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys of Somalia’s radical Islamic Courts Union — is posted in a zipped file here.

An analysis of the document’s authenticity and implications is posted here.

Wikileaks invited Secrecy News to serve on its advisory board. We explained that we do not favor automated or indiscriminate publication of confidential records.

In the absence of accountable editorial oversight, publication can more easily become an act of aggression or an incitement to violence, not to mention an invasion of privacy or an offense against good taste.

So we disagree on first principles? No problem, replied Wikileaks: “Advisory positions are just that — advisory! If you want to advise us to censor, then by all means do so.”

While Wikileaks seeks to make unauthorized disclosures technologically immune to government control, an opposing school of thought proposes to expand U.S. government authority to seize control of information that is already in the public domain when its continued availability is deemed unacceptably dangerous.

“Although existing authorities do not directly address the subject, it appears that reasonable restrictions upon the possession and dissemination of catastrophically dangerous information can be constitutionally implemented,” suggests Stewart Harris of the Appalachian School of Law. See “Restrictions are justifiable,” National Law Journal, December 11, 2006.

DSS Views Foreign Collection of U.S. Technology

Foreign efforts to gather information on defense-related U.S. technologies are characterized in a 2006 report (pdf) by the Defense Security Service (DSS) Counterintelligence Office.

“In 2005, DSS identified 106 countries associated with suspicious activities based on U.S. cleared defense industry reporting, up from 90 countries in 2004.”

Information systems, lasers, sensors and aeronautics were among the technology areas most frequently targeted by foreign intelligence.

The unclassified DSS report is posted on the DSS web site, but is password-protected to block public access. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Technology Collection Trends in the U.S. Defense Industry,” Defense Security Service, June 2006 (33 pages, 2.5 MB PDF).

The report was first reported by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times today. See his “Foreign spy activity surges to fill technology gap.”

Various Resources

The State Department today invited public comment on its proposed revision of regulations on the control of classified national security information. See this January 3 Federal Register notice.

The People’s Republic of China published a new edition of its annual White Paper on national defense on December 29. Boasting of increased transparency, the document features a new section on defense expenditures. See “China’s National Defense in 2006.”

A comprehensive overview of records management in the U.S. Army is presented in “Guide to Recordkeeping in the Army” (pdf), Pamphlet 25-403, December 20, 2006.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently provided over 100 pages of answers (large pdf) to Senate questions for the record from a May 2, 2006 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on FBI Oversight. The responses on diverse topics concerning FBI operations were completed in July, but were only cleared for release to Congress on November 30, and were recently published in a Committee hearing volume. See the FBI responses here (147 pages, 7 MB PDF).