from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
July 12, 2001


A controversial bill intended to encourage private companies to share information about computer security threats with the government was re-introduced in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. "The Cyber Security Information Act of 2001" is sponsored by Reps. Tom Davis and Jim Moran.

A major premise of the bill is that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) discourages private industry from sharing information with the government because of a fear that sensitive or proprietary information will be disclosed through a FOIA request.

"Companies are concerned that information voluntarily shared with the government that reports on or concerns corporate security may be subject to FOIA," said Rep. Davis. "Access to sensitive information may fall into the hands of terrorists, criminals, and other individuals and organizations capable of exploiting vulnerabilities and harming the U.S."

Moreover, he warned, "Unfiltered, unmediated information may be misinterpreted by the public and undermine public confidence in the country's critical infrastructures."

There is no evidence that the FOIA, which has exemptions for proprietary data, could be used to extract confidential business information. Nor is there much reason to believe that companies would be eager to share truly sensitive information with the government, regardless of FOIA standards.

Nevertheless, the bill would create a new FOIA exemption for critical infrastructure information. There are already over 80 particular exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act written into law, and the vitality of the Act is threatened each year as Congress adds new limits to its reach.

Rep. Davis' floor July 10 floor statement introducing the Cyber Security Information Act of 2001 may be found here:


"NSA's secure email system became infected with the ILOVEYOU virus today," wrote confessed spy Robert Hanssen in an email message on May 4, 2000, referring to the National Security Agency. "Now everyone is asking how did it get into a system which supposedly is secure."

A selection of email messages authored by Hanssen was published by the Washington Times' Insight Magazine in its July 16 issue.

The messages, as presented by Insight Magazine, are dominated by expressions of contempt for Clinton Administration security policies. But Hanssen, who is reported to be a devout Catholic, expresses admiration for Israeli security practices. "It isn't for nothing that God chose them to carry the message," he wrote. "Remember, God is Jewish."

The Hanssen emails ("Inside the Emails of a Spy," by Paul M. Rodriguez) can be viewed here:


Congressional oversight of the widely criticized Wen Ho Lee espionage investigation "was stymied at every turn by the FBI refusing to make available information," Senator Arlen Specter said yesterday.

The conditions of Dr. Lee's incarceration "had all the earmarks of an effort at the top of the Justice Department and FBI to coerce a guilty plea," he said.

Sen. Specter reviewed the challenges and problems facing the FBI in anticipation of the upcoming confirmation hearing of Robert Mueller to be FBI Director. See his July 11 statement here:


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

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