from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 64
July 17, 2002


"I firmly believe that the current information security regime is a product of the industrial age and needs to be brought into the information age."

So said J. William Leonard yesterday in his first public speech as director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), the executive branch agency that is responsible for oversight of national security classification and declassification activity government-wide.

In a thoughtful presentation before the National Classification Management Society, Mr. Leonard spoke a number of home truths and offered some insight into his approach to secrecy policy. For example:

"Secrecy is an essential tool in protecting national security... [but] what makes our Nation great is not how well we can make and keep secrets." Rather, "Our ability to share and leverage information is the source of American power and might in the 21st century."

"Oftentimes, the best security is accepting as a given the fact that what you want to protect is or will become known to others -- and planning your operations accordingly."

"I believe that oftentimes we rely on secrecy as a crutch to compensate for shortcomings in other areas such as personnel security, automated information systems controls, and just plain day-to-day management."

The text of Mr. Leonard's July 16 speech (where these remarks may be viewed in context) is available here:


"The disclosure of classified information is damaging our country's ability to stop terrorist acts and is putting American lives at risk," according to a July 12 memo from Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

A CIA assessment appended to the memo noted that "Information obtained from captured detainees has revealed that al-Qa'ida operatives are extremely security conscious and have altered their practices in response to what they have learned from the press about our capabilities."

The Rumsfeld memo and CIA assessment, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, are available here (in PDF format):

A largely platitudinous report from the House Intelligence Committee on "Counterterrorism Intelligence Capabilities and Performance Prior to 9-11," released today, urges the executive branch to "prosecute leaks." The report recommends as follows: "Devise a senior level mechanism for overseeing the investigation and, where possible, the prosecution of willful leakers."


Although the House of Representatives recently passed the Homeland Security Information Sharing Act to promote sharing of classified security information with state and local officials, a House Committee has moved to cut funding to support this kind of intra- governmental communication from next year's budget.

The House Appropriations Committee this week eliminated $7 million that had been requested "to train state and local personnel in the handling of classified and sensitive homeland security data."

"The Committee believes that funding this effort in this account is premature. The directive for addressing sensitive homeland security information has not been issued, the specific state and local needs for training have not been determined, training options have not been fully developed, and the portion of the initiative aimed at ensuring that Federal agencies have appropriate authorities is unknown."

The action was described in House Report 107-575 on the Treasury Appropriations bill, dated July 15. See excerpts here:


FBI background investigations of Presidential appointees have become a mindless ritual as well as a waste of time and money, argued former Reagan official Ken Adelman in a recent opinion article. Adelman noted that he had been subject to at least four, and as many as six, full-field FBI investigations.

"During my interview with a polite agent, I was asked if I had 'ever' had contact with 'any foreign nationals.' I explained that, as a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, yes, I did have contact with foreign nationals. In fact, many of them. Well, could I possibly list all such contacts? When told that would be impossible, the agent moved along. 'Where could I locate this Mr. Wolfowitz, whom you listed as a reference?' he asked me."

See "Stop Sleuthing" by Ken Adelman, dated July 15, linked from this page:


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

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