from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 96
September 30, 2002


In the latest expansion of the national security classification system, President Bush last week authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to classify information up to the Secret level.

The Presidential order, published today in the Federal Register, follows similar actions over the past year granting new classification authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (December 10, 2001) and to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (May 9, 2002).

No rationale for giving the new authority to the Agriculture Department was announced. But national security issues affecting agriculture have gained new prominence in connection with the potential for agricultural bioterrorism.

A recent report of the National Academy of Sciences on "Countering Agricultural Bioterrorism," which was requested by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), "was submitted to USDA and the Office of Homeland Security for a classification review" prior to publication.

However, USDA could not have classified information in the report since it did not yet have authority to do so. In the end, the National Academy voluntarily deleted certain information from the published version of the report. See:


The national security classification system exists, it is fair to say, in order to keep sensitive information away from declared enemies of the United States such as accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui.

So it is more than ironic that in the course of Moussaoui's pending trial for conspiracy to commit terrorism, in which he is representing himself, he was inadvertently provided access to numerous classified documents.

Compounding its error in providing the documents, the government subsequently "disclosed the classified nature of the materials erroneously produced" in a separate document sent to Moussaoui.

Once the documents were recovered earlier this month, the Court granted a motion from standby counsel for the defendant to unseal the frantic correspondence from government attorney concerning the inadvertent disclosures. See the September 26 court order:

and the unsealed correspondence here:


The Department of Defense "is drafting a space control strategy ... for the next 20 years," a General Accounting Office report noted last week.

"Space control" refers to the ability to protect and defend space-based military and commercial systems, which are considered increasingly "attractive targets for adversarial attacks."

The new GAO report provides a snapshot of current programs and anticipated obstacles.

See the September 2002 report entitled "Military Space Operations: Planning, Funding, and Acquisition Challenges Facing Efforts to Strengthen Space Control":


Sen. Arlen Specter summarized the recent disclosures of intelligence warnings received prior to last year's terrorist attacks and asserte that cumulatively they "could have prevented September 11." See "A Virtual Blueprint" appended to his September 26 floor statement:

"Federal agencies are falling further behind in meeting the public's requests for information about what's happening in the government, according to a new General Accounting Office report." See"Agencies Fall Behind On Information Requests" by Christopher Lee in the Washington Post, September 28:

"What principles should guide the communication of scientific and technical information in an age of terrorism?" asks former defense official Mitchel B. Wallerstein in an editorial in the latest issue of Science. He proposes four such principles, affirming the value of open access to scientific knowledge generally but including restrictions narrowly focused on areas with application to weapons of mass destruction. See "Science in an Age of Terrorism" in Science, September 27, 2002 (free registration required):


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

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