from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 5
January 11, 2002


President Bush went out of his way to advise Congress that he holds predominant authority over the establishment of classified programs as well as the declassification of information when he signed two pieces of legislation on January 10.

The President took exception to a boilerplate provision in the Defense Appropriations Act which said that highly classified special access programs (SAPs) should not be initiated until 30 days after Congress is notified of their establishment. He brusquely rejected this restriction.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has stated that the President's authority to classify and control access to information bearing on national security flows from the Constitution and does not depend upon a legislative grant of authority," the President wrote.

"The executive branch shall construe [this provision] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President," he wrote.

See the signing statement on the Defense Appropriations Act here:

In a separate action, the President singled out a measure in the Foreign Operations Act that calls for the expeditious declassification of information concerning the murders of American churchwomen and others in El Salvador and Guatemala.

The President said he will implement this provision "in a manner consistent with my constitutional and statutory responsibilities to protect various kinds of sensitive information."

See the signing statement on the Foreign Operations Act here:


In recent months, "The leaking of classified information ... has dropped considerably," said Assistant Secretary of Defense Victoria Clarke.

"That is because Secretary Rumsfeld has made it a personal campaign that he would reduce the amount of leaking of classified information by people in government and he would reduce the amount of inappropriate backgrounding of classified information," she said.

This is a significant observation because it means that new laws are not needed to combat leaks of classified information and that such leaks can be effectively controlled without them.

Ms. Clarke spoke at a Brookings Institution forum on Press Coverage and the War on Terrorism on January 9. Her remarks are excerpted here:

Despite the various steps the Pentagon has taken to curtail unofficial public access to both classified and unclassified information, such measures can never be completely successful.

Here, for example, is a December 9 Pentagon "Program Budget Decision" obtained by Secrecy News that "addresses the development and procurement of missile defense systems" and that is marked "For Official Use Only" (1.2 MB PDF file):

Though unclassified, the document warns fiercely on every page that "unauthorized release of this program budget decision is prohibited."


The Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion has announced the online publication of documents from the Nuremberg Tribunal in which Nazi officials were tried following World War II.

The documents come from the archive of General William J. Donovan, who served, among other things, as special assistant to the U.S. chief of counsel during the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

See The Nuremberg Project of the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion here:


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

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