from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
December 14, 2000


One of the toughest institutional challenges that any democracy faces is to hold its intelligence agencies accountable and to subject them to the rule of law. Even in the United States, which has the most fully elaborated intelligence oversight system in the world, intelligence agencies routinely violate constitutional norms, especially when it comes to budget disclosure and treaty compliance. In the younger democracies of Eastern Europe and Latin America, the challenge is immeasurably greater.

So it is particularly encouraging to see the blossoming of independent intelligence oversight initiatives in many corners of the globe. One of those is a new Russian web site called Agentura, which provides fresh material on the Russian security services, along with a variety of other intelligence-related items.

The Agentura web site, established last September, was profiled today in the New York Times online in an article by Sally McGrane entitled "A Web Site That Came in From the Cold to Unveil Russian Secrets":

"I'm impressed," former CIA analyst Allen Thomson told the Times. "The site offers a good look at intelligence issues from a Russian perspective. They're keeping up with current issues, they've got a good balance and they can write. This is the best site I've seen coming out of Russia."

Journalist Andrei Soldatov, who conceived the Agentura project, told the Times that he was inspired by the web site of the Federation of American Scientists.

Most of the Agentura site is naturally in Russian, but an English language section may be found here:


In a regrettable capitulation to pressure from the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department Historical Advisory Committee continues to withhold the minutes of its July 2000 meeting concerning declassification of 30 year old historical records. However, the minutes of the September 2000 meeting were released today, albeit in truncated form.

In place of what used to be detailed minutes which typically ran over twenty pages per meeting, the Committee has produced a three page "summary of proceedings" that omits the kind of frank discussion of declassification policy issues that made past minutes so interesting.

Even so, there are some notable tidbits in the new minutes, such as the fact that CIA is in the process of declassifying around 1,000 documents for a March 2001 conference on "CIA's Analysis of the Soviet Union During the Cold War (1947-1991)" to be held at Princeton University.

The September 2000 State Department Historical Advisory Committee "summary of proceedings" may be found here:


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