from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
November 9, 2001


US intelligence agencies traditionally operate behind a wall of secrecy which quite deliberately excludes the public. The clear implication is that the public has nothing of value to contribute to the intelligence process, and that intelligence is none of the public's business anyway.

Remarkably, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) has been charting a different course. The NIC, the intelligence community component which is responsible for producing national intelligence estimates, has embarked on a series of joint studies with non-governmental research institutes and has produced an impressive set of unclassified publications on topics of broad general interest.

Last year, for example, the NIC published a report called Global Trends 2015, which was intended to present "an integrated picture of the world of 2015" in its various environmental, demographic and political dimensions. See:

Lately, in a further departure from the above-the-fray posture characteristic of intelligence agencies, the NIC submitted this work to outside review by a number of scientists, non-governmental activists, and others, who found much to criticize in the Global Trends report.

The review was initiated by the Environmental Change and Security Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and published in the Project's latest report, together with a response from NIC acting chairman Ellen Laipson.

NIC emerged from the experience buffeted but hardly bruised. If anything, the exercise proved beneficial all around and tended to validate the NIC's extraordinary openness to outside critique.

"We have been agreeably startled and pleased by the conversation that Global Trends 2015 has stimulated," Ms. Laipson wrote, "and the comments from this distinguished group introduce some new ideas and issues into the debate."

The full exchange concerning the Global Trends 2015 report is posted (in a 1.9 MB PDF file) here:

Information about requesting a hard copy edition of the complete text of the Environmental Change and Security Project Report, Issue Number 7, may be found here:


Declaring that "The fight against terrorism is now the first and overriding priority of the Department of Justice," Attorney General Ashcroft yesterday announced a reorganization of the Justice Department that will redirect funding and personnel to the counterterrorism mission.

In a November 8 memo, he identified ten goals that will guide the reorganization. See:

In a related November 8 memo on "Prevention of Acts Threatening Public Safety and National Security," the Attorney General identified new initiatives in information sharing, analysis, and interagency coordination. See:


The announcement that the Justice Department reserves the right to monitor certain attorney-client communications in order to prevent terrorist acts set off alarms among civil libertarians and others since it would appear to undermine a fundamental constitutional protection.

See "U.S. Will Monitor Calls to Lawyers" in the Washington Post here:

The new policy was published in the Federal Register on October 31 and may be found here:


The Senate yesterday unanimously approved the intelligence authorization act for FY 2002, including a "substantial increase" in funding reported at around 7% over the current year. The floor debate from the Congressional Record may be viewed here:


The Bush Administration continues to draw criticism for its November 1 executive order that impedes release of historical presidential records.

The new order "strikes the wrong balance," according to the Washington Post. "By forcing the current administration to defer to past presidents' wishes on secrecy, it could serve to encumber public access to important historical material...." See:

"While secrecy is necessary to fight a war, it is not necessary to run the country," wrote former Nixon aide John Dean in a column published today.

"I can assure you from firsthand experience that a President acting secretly usually does not have the best interest of Americans in mind." See:


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

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