from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
June 20, 2001


In a final message penned before his retirement last January, CIA Inspector General L. Britt Snider reviewed the organizational health of the Central Intelligence Agency and offered some notable insights and frank criticisms.

A fundamental problem at the CIA, he found, is "the relative lack of centralized management and control over resources.... It is often impossible to know where money is and how it is actually being spent." This not only impedes efficiency and accountability, to put it mildly, but also makes it more difficult to justify the need for additional resources, he argued.

Another basic challenge is posed by the information revolution. "Unless the Agency can continue to add value to what customers are increasingly able to do for themselves, their reliance upon the Agency's output is going to diminish...[and] our ability to influence the decision-making process is apt to erode over time."

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said that Snider's January 2001 memo is somewhat out of date. "There have been a number of changes since that time to strengthen management structure and bolster mission support," he said, particularly in the areas of finance and information technology.

Mr. Snider wrote that the CIA will not be able to meet the challenges of the information age "without involving knowledgeable outsiders in its work." The establishment of In-Q-Tel, the CIA's information technology venture capital fund, is "the first significant step" in this direction. "I believe In-Q-Tel simply has to succeed."

(Recently, however, some in Congress have targeted In-Q-Tel for elimination. Betsy Phillips, an influential intelligence staffer on the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, has been a particular opponent of the program.)

In comments that run against the grain of most conventional thinking about security policy, Mr. Snider proposed a selective relaxation of Agency security requirements.

"The numerous requirements placed upon employees for security or suitability reasons, e.g., recurring polygraph examinations, psychological testing, annual financial disclosures,... ought to be reconsidered," he wrote. "While these requirements may still make sense for the clandestine service or employees otherwise posted overseas, continuing to apply them indiscriminately to the Agency population as a whole (many of whom never leave the Washington area) seems debatable to me."

The Snider memo was first reported by Bill Gertz in the Washington Times on June 20. A copy of the memo was obtained by Secrecy News and is posted here:


Ongoing disputes over declassification of records for publication in the official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series were described in minutes of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee's February 2001 meeting that were released this week.

Persuading the CIA to provide an accurate accounting of historical covert actions has been a recurring problem for the FRUS series. Robert Jervis, the distinguished political scientist who advises the CIA as head of its Historical Review Panel, said that disclosure of aggregate budget figures for covert actions was "very important to the historical record to show both the scope of the operation and its relative importance." But despite the recommendations of its own advisers such as Jervis, CIA has refused to knowingly permit publication of such historical data.

Meanwhile, publication of a long-awaited FRUS volume on "Development of the Intelligence Community, 1956-1960" is said to be "temporarily on hold due to a dispute with the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) over the inclusion of their documents." The PFIAB believes that its records are beyond the reach of the law that requires FRUS to be accurate, reliable and complete.

The newly released State Department Historical Advisory Committee minutes are posted here:

The current and anticipated publication schedule for FRUS is available here:


In an important new initiative, the Natural Resources Defense Council is working to strip away some of the mystique surrounding nuclear war planning and to challenge its political premises.

The U.S. military's plan for fighting a nuclear war, known as the SIOP (Single Integrated Operational Plan), is the biggest and most consequential official secret of all. It is beyond the reach of almost all elected officials and is effectively outside of any form of democratic control. Because it creates a inflexible "demand" for nuclear weapons to destroy thousands of hypothetical targets, primarily in the former Soviet Union, the SIOP presents a nearly insurmountable bureaucratic obstacle to significant nuclear arms reductions.

"The current SIOP is an artifact of the Cold War that has held arms reduction efforts hostage," according to a new NRDC study. "It is time to replace it with something else."

See the NRDC study, entitled "The U.S. Nuclear War Plan," here:

The NRDC project and related issues surrounding the SIOP are discussed in the forthcoming July/August issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists here:


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

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