from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 7
January 17, 2002


The American public strongly supports most aspects of government security policy, such as rigorous background investigations for persons holding security clearances for access to classified information.

At the same time, however, "the public believes that far too much information is being classified," according to a newly released survey commissioned by the Department of Defense Personnel Security Research Center (PERSEREC).

The survey is based on polling data collected in 2000 by the National Opinion Research Center and is broadly consistent with the results of similar surveys conducted at two year intervals since 1994. A report on the latest survey, dated October 2001, was released yesterday.

"The people who were questioned in the surveys were not part of the security world," noted PERSEREC director James A Riedel. "For this very reason, their 'outsider' opinions were welcome.... Ultimately it would be impossible in a democracy to maintain a security system without the support of the general public."

See the new report on "Public Opinion of Selected National Security Issues, 1994-2000" by Suzanne Wood of PERSEREC here:


The widespread conspiracy theory that linked the Central Intelligence Agency to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has its roots in a sophisticated Soviet disinformation campaign, according to an analysis by author Max Holland that is published in the latest issue of the CIA journal Studies in Intelligence.

According to Holland, a Soviet-inspired report in an Italian newspaper tying businessman Clay Shaw to the CIA led New Orleans district attorney James Garrison to his conclusion that the Agency was implicated in a cover-up of the Kennedy assassination. This view would later be dramatized in Oliver Stone's movie JFK.

Holland's scholarly detective work makes perhaps the best use to date of the rich inventory of documents that were declassified at the direction of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB).

See "The Lie That Linked CIA to the Kennedy Assassination" in the Fall-Winter 2001 edition of Studies in Intelligence here:

Ironically, the CIA initially resisted compliance with the congressionally-mandated declassification of Kennedy assassination records, according to the 1998 report of the ARRB.

"The Review Board encountered early CIA resistance to making records available to the Review Board, as well as resistance to the ultimate disclosure of records. A small number of CIA staff officers, almost exclusively from the Directorate of Operations, unnecessarily impeded the process and damaged the Agency's interests by resisting compromise with all-or-nothing positions," the ARRB stated in its report.

"The fact is," says Holland, "they didn't understand the story buried in their own documents."


Leaks of classified information are one of the factors that have impeded the tracking of Osama bin Laden and other wanted terrorists, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on January 15.

"To the extent people run around and break federal criminal law and leak and provide classified information publicly, it is very harmful to what we're trying to do and that has happened," he said. See:

Rumsfeld has denounced unauthorized disclosures of classified information often since September 11, beginning as early as September 12. As a consequence, Assistant Secretary of Defense Torie Clarke said last week, the number of leaks has "dropped considerably." (See SN, 1/11/02).


The assorted intelligence policy issues that confront Congress in the aftermath of September 11 are reviewed and summarized in "Intelligence Issues for Congress" by Congressional Research Service analyst Richard A. Best, Jr., updated January 8:


It is sometimes forgotten that there are numerous conditions and limitations to the freedoms that are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. A Congressional Research Service report entitled "Freedom of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendment" by CRS analyst Henry Cohen, updated November 5, 2001, provides an instructive account:


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

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