from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 65
July 19, 2002


The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) this week filed its report on the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2003.

As usual, the report marks no bold new departures but contains numerous legislative gestures that are of interest and possible importance for intelligence policy.

The House bill would add a new exemption from search, review and disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act for "operational files" of the National Reconnaissance Office. A similar exemption for CIA operational files was enacted in 1984. But a proposed exemption for operational files of the Defense Intelligence Agency was abandoned two years ago when it met with public controversy.

In another FOIA-related provision, the Committee moved to prohibit intelligence agencies from complying with FOIA requests from foreign governments or their representatives.

"CIA estimates that requests from foreign governments and foreign nationals comprise approximately 10 percent of the FOIA requests received annually," the Committee stated. Intelligence agencies are "required by law to process these requests without regard to the nationality of the individual making the request.... This [new provision] will prevent the diversion of the Intelligence Community's limited declassification resources for this purpose."

The Committee welcomed increased spending for intelligence but noted that the new money will tend to reinforce the existing, inadequate intelligence structure:

"[T]hese investments are being made into an organizational framework that gives little indication of being prepared to produce intelligence capabilities that can address the national security demands of the future."

Unwilling or unable to tackle the challenge of intelligence reform on its own, the Committee cast a plaintive look to the executive branch review of intelligence that was mandated by National Security Presidential Directive 5.

"The Committee implores the President, in particular, to receive the findings from the NSPD-5 review and act upon them with expediency." But the findings of that 2001 review, which reportedly called for greater DCI authority over defense intelligence agencies, are deemed unlikely to be adopted.

"Perhaps the most disturbing budgetary trend in the United States Intelligence Community is its increasing reliance on supplemental appropriations," the Committee observed, referring to the billions of dollars that have been added for intelligence outside of the normal budget appropriations process in the past year alone.

This "is bad budget practice and bad government."

The Committee report also addresses the state of HUMINT, NSA SIGINT architecture, the familiar lack of foreign language expertise, and the defects of intelligence analysis.

The report also introduces a new acronym: GWOT, for Global War on Terrorism.

See the HPSCI report on intelligence authorization for FY 2003, H.Rpt. 107-592, here:


There is a grand tradition of congressional publications on intelligence, from the Church Committee reports of 1975-76 to the 1996 HPSCI report "IC21: Intelligence Community in the 21st Century," that are so rich in content and analytical insight that they serve as educational resources long after their pages have yellowed and their bindings cracked.

Unfortunately, the new HPSCI subcommittee report on U.S. intelligence deficiencies related to the September 11 attacks is not in the same category, judging from the unclassified summary of the report that was released this week. It provides no new information of significance and its recommendations are banal and poorly written.

Thus, "The summary finding regarding CIA is that CIA needs to institutionalize its sharp reorientation toward going on the offensive against terrorism" (italicized in the original).

Perhaps the investigation's most important conclusion was offered by Rep. Saxby Chambliss at a July 17 press briefing: "This [i.e. September 11] was such a closely held, compartmentalized act of devastation that was carried out by the terrorist community [sic] that we don't know of any way it could have been prevented."

Yet that key finding was not even included in the report's summary, intelligence historian John Prados pointed out.

To add insult, the House Committee posted the 14 page unclassified summary of the report on its web site as an absurdly massive 1.3 Megabyte PDF file.

A more suitably modest 28 kilobyte HTML version of the document is posted here:


State Department spokesman Richard Boucher yesterday responded to further questions about last week's brief detention of National Review reporter Joel Mowbray after he quoted a classified document at a State Department press briefing last week.

"Every reporter in this room at one time or another has written a story purportedly based on classified documents," Mr. Boucher said.

"But nobody has ever said in here on-camera, on-the-record until last week, 'I have it -- I have a classified cable with me right now, right here,' and gotten up to leave the building. What the guards did [in detaining Mowbray] was entirely appropriate." See:


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

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