Posts from April, 2008

DNI Issues New Information Sharing Strategy

A new “Information Sharing Strategy” (pdf) from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence warns that traditional security practices that restrict disclosure of information have become counterproductive.

“The Intelligence Community’s ‘need to know’ culture, a necessity during the Cold War, is now a handicap that threatens our ability to uncover, respond, and protect against terrorism and other asymmetric threats,” the document declares.

The new Strategy defines information sharing goals and as well as near-term and long-term implementation objectives. Goals include uniform government-wide information policies, improved connectivity, and increased inter-agency collaboration.

Notably absent from the document is any role for the public in information sharing. The DNI Strategy has no place for the notion of an engaged citizenry that has intelligence information needs of its own.

A copy of the new Strategy, which has not yet been released, was obtained by Secrecy News. See “U.S. Intelligence Community Information Sharing Strategy,” February 22, 2008.

In December 2007, DNI McConnell issued Intelligence Community Policy Memorandum (ICPM) 2007-500-3 on “Intelligence Information Sharing” (pdf). A copy of the document, which has not been publicly released, is here.

Two related IC Policy Memoranda, which have been officially released, are these:

“Preparing Intelligence to Meet the Intelligence Community’s ‘Responsibility to Provide’” (pdf), ICPM 2007-200-2, December 11, 2007.

“Unevaluated Domestic Threat Tearline Reports” (pdf), ICPM 007-500-1, November 19, 2007.

2003 OLC Memo on Interrogation Declassified

A 2003 memo from the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel that appears to authorize abusive interrogation of suspected unlawful combatants outside the United States was declassified this week.

The memo (pdf) concludes that criminal statutes that would preclude torture and other forms of physical abuse “do not apply to properly-authorized interrogations of enemy combatants.” The memo, authored by John Yoo, was subsequently rescinded, amidst widespread criticism.

From a secrecy policy point of view, the document itself exemplifies the political abuse of classification authority. Though it was classified at the Secret level, nothing in the document could possibly pose a threat to national security, particularly since it is presented as an interpretation of law rather than an operational plan. Instead, it seems self-evident that the legal memorandum was classified not to protect national security but to evade unwanted public controversy.

What is arguably worse is that for years there was no oversight mechanism, in Congress or elsewhere, that was capable of identifying and correcting this abuse of secrecy authority. (Had the ACLU not challenged the withholding of the document in court, it would undoubtedly remain inaccessible.) Consequently, one must assume similar abuses of classification are prevalent.

The 81-page memorandum, dated March 14, 2003, is entitled “Military Interrogation of Alien Unlawful Combatants Held Outside the United States.”

Open Society Institute Seeks Transparency Program Director

The Open Society Institute, a philanthropic foundation founded by George Soros that works to promote democratic governance, is seeking to hire a program director for its work on transparency in the U.S. (Secrecy News has received funding from OSI.)

The OSI transparency program “will use a combination of grantmaking strategies and programmatic initiatives to ensure transparency and effective oversight of government and to protect the integrity of government institutions.”

A description of the Program Director position and the desired skills and qualifications may be found here (pdf).

The North Korean Economy, and More from CRS

Noteworthy new reports from the Congressional Research Service which have not been made readily available to the public include the following (all pdf).

“The REAL ID Act of 2005: Legal, Regulatory, and Implementation Issues,” April 1, 2008.

“The Social Security Number: Legal Developments Affecting Its Collection, Disclosure, and Confidentiality,” updated February 21, 2008.

“Congressional Authority To Limit U.S. Military Operations in Iraq,” updated February 27, 2008.

“Taiwan’s 2008 Presidential Election,” April 2, 2008.

“The North Korean Economy: Leverage and Policy Analysis,” updated March 4, 2008.

A New Intelligence Oversight Task for GAO

For the first time in six years, the Government Accountability Office has been asked by a congressional intelligence committee to perform an intelligence oversight-related function.

On March 11, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), an intelligence subcommittee chairwoman, called upon the GAO to review security clearance processes in the intelligence community and to examine the DNI’s pilot project on security clearance reform.

The new assignment potentially represents a breakthrough in the longstanding stalemate over GAO’s role in intelligence oversight. Opposition to GAO oversight in the intelligence community combined with resistance from the congressional committee leadership have effectively sidelined GAO since the intelligence committees submitted their last intelligence-related request to GAO in 2002.

Proponents of an increased intelligence oversight role for GAO (including FAS [pdf] and GAO itself [pdf]) have argued that not only does GAO possess relevant expertise, but that by sharing the oversight burden GAO can free the intelligence committees to focus on more specialized oversight functions.

The new GAO assignment was described in a March 12 news release from Rep. Eshoo.

It was also noted by me in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post on “Extending the GAO’s Reach,” March 31.

The potential role of the GAO in intelligence oversight was addressed in a February 29 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chaired by Senator Daniel Akaka.

Avoiding a Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East

The likely responses of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey to Iranian acquisition of a nuclear weapon were considered in a new staff report (pdf) from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“How are these three countries responding today to the Iranian nuclear program? How would Riyadh, Cairo, and Ankara respond if Tehran were to cross the nuclear threshold and acquire nuclear weapons? Would they pursue nuclear weapons of their own? What factors would influence their decisions? What can the U.S. do now and over the coming years to discourage these countries from pursuing a nuclear weapon of their own?”

“Based on 5 months of research and interviews with hundreds of officials and scholars in the United States and seven Middle Eastern countries, this report attempts to answer these questions.”

See “Chain Reaction: Avoiding a Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee print, February 2008.

Judicial Secrecy and the Sunshine in Litigation Act

“Far too often, court-approved secrecy agreements hide vital public health and safety information from the American public, putting lives at stake,” observed Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI).

“The secrecy agreements even prevent government officials or consumer groups from learning about and protecting the public from defective and dangerous products.”

“Legislation that I’ve introduced… seeks to restore the appropriate balance between secrecy and openness. Under our bill, the proponent of a protective order must demonstrate to the judge’s satisfaction that the order would not restrict the disclosure of information relevant to public health and safety hazards.”

Sen. Kohl’s proposed remedy, the Sunshine in Litigation Act, was the subject of a recent Senate hearing that has just been published. See “The Sunshine in Litigation Act: Does Court Secrecy Undermine Public Health and Safety?” (pdf), Senate Judiciary Committee, December 11, 2007.

More Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World

In what might seem like an April Fool’s Day indulgence but isn’t, the New York Times today probed further into the emblems that circulate officially or unofficially around classified Defense Department programs.

The emblems and patches, gathered by author Trevor Paglen, “reveal a bizarre mix of high and low culture where Latin and Greek mottos frame images of spooky demons and sexy warriors, of dragons dropping bombs and skunks firing laser beams.” Several of them are featured in a Times graphic supplement.

See “Inside the Black Budget” by William J. Broad, New York Times, April 1.