from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 39
May 2, 2002
CONGRESSIONAL ACTION ON INFO POLICY
- CONGRESSIONAL ACTION ON INFO POLICY
- IMPROVED FISA REPORTING URGED
- WEN HO LEE FALLOUT HITS LAWRENCE LIVERMORE
Official secrecy and public access to information were topics of legislative action on several fronts in Congress on May 1.
Sen. Byron Dorgan introduced an amendment to increase the transparency of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tribunals that are convened to settle claims against NAFTA member nations.
"My amendment is going to say no more secrecy," Sen. Dorgan said. "My amendment is going to say if we are going to be a part of NAFTA, the tribunals must be open." See:
Elsewhere, a provision of the pending State Department authorization bill would require public disclosure of seismological data in support of arms control verification.
"The head of the Air Force Technical Applications Center shall make available to the public... all raw seismological data provided to the United States Government by any international monitoring organization that is directly responsible for seismological monitoring." See:
Lastly, the principle of "community right to know" as it applies to hazardous liquid pipeline facilities is addressed in the pending Energy Policy Act, which sets forth a list of minimal public reporting requirements. Allowance is made for withholding information if it meets the standards for national security classification. See:
IMPROVED FISA REPORTING URGED
The release of the latest annual report to Congress on implementation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has prompted calls for improved public reporting concerning this exceptionally intrusive government activity.
Although counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations undoubtedly increased in 2001, the new report indicates a reduction in the number of authorizations issued by the FISA court last year for these purposes, apparently due in part to the shifting definitions and scope of such authorizations in the wake of the PATRIOT Act.
"Among other things, the PATRIOT Act ... authorizes what DOJ has characterized as 'generic' FISA orders which allow one warrant to be served on multiple service providers," according to David Sobel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. As a result, "These numbers need to be taken with a very large grain of salt," Sobel wrote on the Politech discussion list. See:
Since the scope of the FISA has expanded significantly over the years, simply reporting the total number of FISA authorizations actually provides qualitatively less information to the public today than Congress intended when it enacted the reporting requirement in 1978.
Accordingly, Congress needs to expand the reporting requirements, the Washington Post editorialized today:
"The... public FISA reports should include data on the number of physical searches conducted, the number of wiretaps, the number of Americans targeted and the raw number of individuals targeted.... Nobody is asking for case-specific information, which is legitimately sensitive. But the public is entitled to know something about how the government's new powers are being used." See:
Unfortunately, the congressional intelligence committees, while jealous of their own prerogatives, have displayed little interest in promoting public accountability. In all likelihood any progress toward increased public oversight and accountability of intelligence matters will have to come from somewhere else.
WEN HO LEE FALLOUT HITS LAWRENCE LIVERMORE
For no good reason, the leading candidate to become the director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory instead became the latest casualty of the Wen Ho Lee case.
Dr. Ray Juzaitis, associate director for weapons physics at Los Alamos National Laboratory, withdrew his name from consideration for the top Livermore post in an April 30 letter.
"The unwarranted linking of my name to the Wen Ho Lee affair in an attempt to cast a cloud on the appropriateness of my appointment suggest[s] that the unfounded controversy may hinder my effectiveness in leading the Laboratory," Dr. Juzaitis wrote.
See a May 1 University of California press release, with Dr. Juzaitis' letter attached, here:
The Wen Ho Lee case and the two recent books about it ("A Convenient Spy" by Dan Stober and Ian Hoffman, and "My Country Versus Me" by Wen Ho Lee) are the subject of a long and rather intelligent review in the May 2002 issue of the neoconservative monthly Commentary. The review, entitled "How Inept is the FBI?" by Gabriel Schoenfeld, is not available online, but the Commentary web site is here:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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