from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 107
October 28, 2002


The Central Intelligence Agency offered some remarkably straightforward answers to some rather blunt questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this year.

What is the most likely delivery system of weapons of mass destruction to be used by terrorists or states against the U.S.? How stable is the Jordanian regime of King Abdullah? In the event of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, which nation would likely prevail? Does the Intelligence Community believe that the resumption of U.S. trade with Cuba could hasten economic and political reform in Cuba?

CIA responses to these and many other pointed questions, plus Agency comments on intelligence-related "leaks" and the hazards of aggregate budget disclosure, were appended to the hearing record from the February 6, 2002, Senate hearing on "The Worldwide Threat in 2002," which was published two weeks ago without fanfare or notice.

The Committee questions and CIA answers may be found here:

Other agency responses to many of the same questions for the record will be posted later in the week.


One way to invigorate U.S. intelligence would be to "Develop an entirely new capability to proactively, preemptively evoke responses from adversary/terrorist groups," according to the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory group.

Such an approach would "improve [intelligence] information collection by stimulating reactions" from the target.

One hundred "highly specialized people with unique technical and intelligence skills such as information operations, PSYOP, network attack, covert activities, SIGINT, HUMINT, SOF, influence warfare/deception operations" could constitute a new, elite "Proactive Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG)," reporting to the National Security Council with an annual budget of $100 million.

The proposal is the latest sign of a new assertiveness by the Defense Department in intelligence matters, and an indication that the cutting edge of intelligence reform is not to be found in Congress but behind closed doors in the Pentagon.

The Defense Science Board recommended creation of the preemptive operations group in its "DSB Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism."

The findings and recommendations of the DSB Summer Study were set forth in an August 16, 2002, PowerPoint briefing. The first thirty pages of the unclassified 78 page PointPoint presentation are posted here:

The DSB briefing was first reported by Dan Dupont in Inside the Pentagon on September 26. It was also discussed by William M. Arkin in the Los Angeles Times on October 27.


Writer Thomas B. Ross, who died last week, was practically the creator, along with his co-author David Wise, of investigative reporting on U.S. intelligence.

The three books that Ross and Wise wrote together, especially the 1964 work entitled "The Invisible Government," were the kind of thing that had not been seen before and they prompted some alarm in official circles.

Director of Central Intelligence John A. McCone felt the need to warn President Johnson in 1964 that "inquisitive writers such as Ross and Wise" were sniffing around certain U.S. intelligence activities "and I thought the consequences would be very serious." See Document 49 on this page of a recent volume of Foreign Relations of the United States:

"I think it is reasonable to say, in retrospect, that we were among the first to recognize and point out the dangers to American democracy of official lies told to protect covert operations," Wise wrote in his own 1973 book "The Politics of Lying."

A New York Times obituary of Thomas B. Ross is posted here:

David Wise's new book, published this month to favorable reviews, is "Spy: How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America" (Random House, 2002).


With unusual self-awareness, a CIA author noted in a newly declassified study that the Agency's secrecy system for handling highly classified intelligence information could have unintended psychological effects.

The March 1977 study, entitled "Critique of the Codeword Compartment in the CIA,"" was formally declassified (with redactions) and accessioned at the National Archives on October 21. The 67 page document was obtained by Jeffrey Richelson of the National Security Archive, who kindly shared a copy.

"We know that secrecy by its very nature may affect the personality of its practioners," the unnamed author wrote.

"This is true of all forms of secrecy from the primitive secret society to the codeword compartment. The latter is a heightened form of secrecy that resembles the former in many ways. It has the aura of a secret society. It has its initiation, its oaths, its esoteric phrases, its sequestered areas, and its secrets within secrets. And in place of passwords and hand signs, there are letter designations on badges. There are in-groups and out-groups. No wonder, then, if the codeword compartment has unintended psychological effects."

Among other effects identified, cleared personnel tend to assign undue accuracy and weight to highly classified information, and to equate access levels with professional status.

"On balance, the psychological side effects of the codeword compartment seem to diminish rather than enhance security," the author concludes.


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

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