from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
June 18, 2001


Former Los Alamos intelligence official Danny B. Stillman brought suit today arguing that the U.S. government unlawfully exceeded its constitutional authority when it blocked publication of his 500 page manuscript describing China's nuclear weapons program.

The manuscript is based on Stillman's nine visits to China's little-known nuclear weapons facilities, most of which took place following his retirement from Los Alamos in 1993. "More Americans have walked on the moon than have seen the Chinese laboratories Danny Stillman has visited," said attorney Mark S. Zaid of the lawfirm Lobel, Novins & Lamont, who represents Stillman.

At every stage, Stillman complied with his legal obligations and provided the government an opportunity to review the manuscript to identify potentially classified information. Where specific classification issues were raised, Stillman (who used to be an original classification authority himself) modified the text to accommodate government concerns.

But his good faith was not reciprocated and the government has attempted to suppress not just particular technical facts but the entire manuscript.

"The Department of Defense objects to public release of the manuscript," according to a September 2000 DoD memorandum. "We have determined that excisions will not correct the problems this manuscript presents."

"Open publication could also damage American foreign relations with China and have a deleterious effect on future scientific exchanges between the two countries," the DoD memo continued. The Department of Energy and the Central Intelligence Agency are also resisting publication.

The government's blanket opposition to publication seems particularly unwarranted because the information in the book was openly collected. It is a premier example of what is sometimes humorously called "ASK-INT" -- the intelligence that may be acquired by simply asking for it (as distinct from HUMINT, IMINT or SIGINT). Stillman's Chinese hosts told him only what they wanted to tell him, while he openly took notes.

Aside from the fundamental First Amendment issues involved, Stillman's case has other important implications. Anxiety over Chinese espionage has inspired a host of ill-considered security requirements, impeding scientific contacts with foreign visitors. But Stillman's book reportedly casts doubt on widespread allegations that China relied on espionage to achieve advances in its nuclear weapons program. And while Rep. Curt Weldon has impugned the Clinton Administration for supposedly aiding Chinese nuclear development by relaxing controls on export of supercomputers in 1996, accounts of Stillman's work indicate that China began using supercomputers for nuclear weapons design in 1993 and that they were designed and built domestically.

Meanwhile, counterintelligence specialist Paul Moore said at a press conference today that publication of Stillman's book would serve a positive counterintelligence purpose by illustrating how Chinese officials interact with Western visitors.

The text of Stillman's complaint, filed this morning by Mr. Zaid, is posted here:

The New York Times account of the case ("Author to Sue U.S. Over Book on China's Nuclear Advances" by William J. Broad) may be found here:


The government of Spain proudly announced last week that the United States will share intelligence derived from electronic intercepts to help fight terrorism in Spain.

While several European countries have criticized the American-led electronic surveillance network often referred to as "Echelon," arguing that it represents a massive violation of privacy and even a violation of human rights, the government of Spain was much more upbeat following a meeting with President George W. Bush last week.

American electronic surveillance could help "put an end to terrorism," said Foreign Minister Josep Pique after President Bush offered U.S. intelligence assistance against the ETA, the Basque terrorist organization.

"The intelligence gathered by the CIA and by satellite and the USA's capacity to intercept communications and decipher emails may help monitor the activities of the terrorist band," according to government sources cited by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

Intelligence liaison relationships between the U.S. and foreign governments are almost never discussed publicly. But in this case, Spanish government officials found it advantageous to do so and the long, hairy arm of CIA classification policy was not in a position to prevent them.

The new intelligence sharing arrangement was first reported on June 14 by El Mundo. See "EEUU espiara las comunicaciones de ETA para el Gobierno" here:


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

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