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Fw: Secrecy News -- 10/16/03

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  • 2nd Sight
    SECRECY NEWS from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy Volume 2003, Issue No. 89 October 16, 2003 ** DOD RESTORES ONLINE ACCESS TO DIRECTIVES ** GAO (BUT NOT
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 16, 2003
      SECRECY NEWS
      from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
      Volume 2003, Issue No. 89
      October 16, 2003


      ** DOD RESTORES ONLINE ACCESS TO DIRECTIVES
      ** GAO (BUT NOT DOD) ON ANTHRAX LESSONS LEARNED
      ** THE COLUMBIA ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION'S "BIGGEST
      MISTAKE"
      ** CLASSIFIED TECHNOLOGY FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT
      ** SECRECY VERSUS INTELLIGENCE


      DOD RESTORES ONLINE ACCESS TO DIRECTIVES

      The Department of Defense today restored public access
      to a website containing hundreds of DoD directives that
      it had removed from public reach just over a week ago.

      The episode is a microcosm of countless other disputes
      over access to government information. Last week, the
      Pentagon began by unilaterally blocking public users
      from the directive web page. The move was immediately
      exposed and criticized (SN 10/08/03). It was
      challenged and implicitly ridiculed by
      TheMemoryHole.org, which posted a complete replica of
      the withdrawn website. The removal triggered a request
      and faced impending legal challenges under the Freedom
      of Information Act. And it drew media attention,
      including a brief Associated Press story yesterday by
      Jim Krane.

      To its credit, the Pentagon got the message. The site
      is again available here:
      http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/

      An optimist would be entitled to conclude that it is
      still possible, even under current conditions, to
      effect change in offical secrecy policy, at least in a
      modest way.


      GAO (BUT NOT DOD) ON ANTHRAX LESSONS LEARNED

      The General Accounting Office yesterday released a
      report entitled "Bioterrorism: Public Health Response
      to Anthrax Incidents of 2001."

      The GAO identified the lessons learned by state and
      local public health officials regarding both strengths
      and weaknesses in preparedness for an anthrax-related
      emergency. It described the steps that have been take
      to improve emergency response, and those that remain to
      be accomplished. See:
      http://www.fas.org/irp/gao/anthrax.pdf

      The new GAO report is doubly noteworthy because it
      addresses precisely the same set of issues as another
      report prepared by the Center for Strategic and
      International Studies under contract to the Defense
      Threat Reduction Agency.

      But that unclassified report, "Lessons from the Anthrax
      Attacks: Implications for U.S. Bioterrorism
      Preparedness," is still being withheld by the Pentagon
      from public disclosure. An FAS Freedom of Information
      Act request to compel release of the document is
      pending (SN, 8/19/03).


      THE COLUMBIA ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION'S "BIGGEST MISTAKE"

      The "biggest mistake" made by the Columbia Accident
      Investigation Board that examined the February 2003
      space shuttle disaster was that it circumvented the
      normal open meeting requirements, thereby "diminishing"
      its own work.

      That is the conclusion of an otherwise sympathetic
      assessment published in the November 2003 Atlantic
      Monthly entitled "Columbia's Last Flight" by William
      Langewiesche.

      "Serious critics cried foul... and pointed out
      correctly that [Board chair Admiral Hal] Gehman was
      using loopholes to escape sunshine laws that otherwise
      would have applied," Langewiesche writes.

      In particular, the Orlando Sentinel (to whom
      Langewiesche wrongly condescends elsewhere in the
      article) reported on May 11 that by hiring the Board
      members as NASA employees, the Board was able to escape
      the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

      "Gehman believed that treating the [witness] testimony
      as privileged was necessary to encourage witnesses to
      testify, and to get to the bottom of the story,"
      Langewiesche explains.

      "[B]ut the long-term effect of the investigation will
      be diminished as a result (for instance, by lack of
      access to the raw material by outside analysts), and
      there was widespread consensus among the experienced
      investigators actually conducting the interviews that
      the promise of privacy was having little effect on what
      people were willing to say," he continued.

      "These were not criminals they were talking to, or
      careful lawyers. For the most part they were sincere
      engineering types who were concerned about what had
      gone wrong, and would have been willing even without
      privacy to speak their minds. The truth, in other
      words, would have come out even in the brightest of
      sunshine."

      The interesting article by Langewiesche is not
      available on The Atlantic website
      (www.theatlantic.com). But see "Shuttle Accident Board
      Erodes Open Meeting Law," Secrecy News, May 12, 2003:
      http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/2003/05/051203.html


      CLASSIFIED TECHNOLOGY FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT

      Classified technologies could be employed by law
      enforcement to decipher encrypted communications or to
      acquire other forms of evidence in criminal
      investigations, but deciding to use such technologies
      requires a careful balancing of competing interests, a
      Justice Department memorandum explained last year.

      Among other things, officials must weigh the nature of
      the evidence to be obtained, the risk of disclosure of
      the classified technology (e.g., in the course of
      prosecution), the impact of any such disclosure on
      national security, and so forth.

      The issue was addressed in a four page memo from
      then-Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson dated
      January 31, 2002. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
      requested a copy of the memo last year. It was finally
      provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee in April of
      this year and published in a Committee hearing volume
      last week.

      See "Procedures for the Use of Classified Investigative
      Technologies in Criminal Cases" here:
      http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/doj/doj013102.pdf


      SECRECY VERSUS INTELLIGENCE

      "There's a 'total meltdown' in America's intelligence
      services -- and the Bush administration's penchant for
      secrecy is one of the major reasons why, current and
      former top U.S. spooks charged Tuesday," writes Noah
      Shachtman in Wired News.

      The report reflects a growing realization among the
      most alert members of the government that excessive
      classification is doing a disservice to U.S.
      intelligence and to U.S. policy generally by impeding
      the flow of information to those who need it.

      See "Spies Attack White House Secrecy" by Noah
      Shachtman, Wired News, October 16:
      http://www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,60836,00.html


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

      To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, send email to
      secrecy_news-request@...
      with "subscribe" in the body of the message.

      OR email your request to saftergood@...

      Secrecy News is archived at:
      http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/index.html


      Steven Aftergood
      Project on Government Secrecy
      Federation of American Scientists
      web: www.fas.org/sgp/index.html
      email: saftergood@...
      voice: (202) 454-4691


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