from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 68
July 29, 2002


An amendment to eliminate a proposed exemption from the Freedom of Information Act for certain information that is submitted by private industry to the Department of Homeland Security was defeated in the House of Representatives on July 26, following some intense rhetorical jousting.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), was needed in order to "prevent the Department of Homeland Security from becoming the Department of Homeland Secrecy," she said.

Proponents of the FOIA exemption argued that it was "very narrowly tailored," and was needed "to enhance the safety of the American people."

The amendment to eliminate the exemption was defeated by a vote of 188-240. See the July 26 House debate on the measure here:


Confounding familiar stereotypes, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week said the Department of Justice had set "too high a standard" for approving surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and needed to be more aggressive. But Attorney General Ashcroft demurred, saying his hands were tied by the U.S. Constitution.

"The committee is considering the standards for issuance of warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," Sen. Arlen Specter informed the Attorney General at a Judiciary Committee hearing on July 25. "This is something which I think you ought to look at, Attorney General Ashcroft, because I believe that the FBI, and in turn the Department of Justice, are not imposing the appropriate standard. They've got too high a standard."

"The Constitution provides that no warrant shall issue absent probable cause," Attorney General Ashcroft replied. "That's been our sticking point."

Nevertheless, the Attorney General continued, "We'll be happy to work with you because we want to make sure we're doing what we can to make available every investigational tool to curtail terrorism."

See the July 25 exchange on FISA here:

Copies of the prepared statements from the July 25 hearing on Oversight of the Department of Justice are available here:


The Department of Justice's Freedom of Information Act Guide, last updated in May 2002, was posted online earlier this month on the Justice web site.

The Guide provides an authoritative review of the workings of the FOIA along with a detailed explication of how each of the Act's exemptions has evolved through judicial interpretation, providing abundant citations to the case law. It will be of use to requesters and litigators seeking to craft arguments for disclosure, or needing to understand the government's arguments in opposition.

The Justice Department has also recently posted updated versions of its Privacy Act Overview and its Freedom of Information Case List.

All of these documents are available here:


Volumes 2 and 3 of the landmark 1976 report of the Church Committee -- formally known as the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities -- have recently been posted online.

Both volumes, which generally address domestic surveillance and civil liberties, have long been out of print. They have been made newly available, along with related materials, by researcher Paul Wolf on his web site here:


"We've got to do whatever it takes -- if it takes sending SWAT teams into journalists' homes -- to stop these leaks," said CIA official James B. Bruce in a speech last week.

Mr. Bruce's extravagant remarks, which are not official policy, illustrate one extreme of the highly polarized debate over unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

See "CIA Expert: Leaks of Classified Information Must Stop," by Dave Eberhart,, July 27:


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

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