from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 115
November 18, 2002


National security classification activity during the first year of the Bush Administration set an all time record, according to the latest statistics of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO).

The report tends to substantiate the perception that the Bush Administration has a predisposition in favor of official secrecy.

"The total of all classification actions reported for fiscal year 2001 increased by 44 percent to 33,020,887," according to the 2001 ISOO Annual Report to the President, published on the web today.

The largest classification total ever reported by ISOO until now was 22,322,895 for fiscal year 1985. (No total was reported for 2000, but it would have approached 23 million.) The smallest Classification total ever reported was 3,579,505 classification Actions for fiscal year 1995.

The huge new total classification figure is in part an artifact of the reporting process, because it includes both new "original classification" activity and secondary, "derivative classification" which involves the incorporation or paraphrase of previously classified information in new documents. Such derivative declassification has increased dramatically in recent years due to the use of email and other electronic systems to duplicate and disseminate classified materials.

Even so, the growth in classification is real, with a reported increase of 18% in original classification activity, or new secrets. Most of this increase is attributable to the Department of Defense, according to the ISOO report.

Remarkably, and less predictably, overall declassification activity also increased, ISOO found. During fiscal year 2001, the executive branch declassified just over 100 million pages, or 34 percent more than during the preceding year.

This means that the declassification infrastructure established by the 1995 executive order 12958 remained functional, at least through September 30 of last year, when fiscal year 2001 ended.

"It is reasonably clear that the [executive order's] automatic declassification program will be affected by the events of September 11, if only in the number of resources dedicated to it," ISOO warned.

The Information Security Oversight Office, which reports to the President annually on classification and declassification policy, is a component of the National Archives and takes policy direction from the National Security Council. Its director is J. William Leonard.

The new 2001 ISOO Report to the President is posted here:


The long-deferred Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2003 emerged from a House-Senate conference last week after agreement was finally reached with the White House on the establishment of a new independent Commission to investigate September 11.

The intelligence bill generally approves the President's request for what it termed "the most substantial increase for programs funded in the National Foreign Intelligence Program in history."

Among other points of interest and importance, the conference report sounds a warning about the massive (and massively expensive) modernization of U.S. spy satellites:

The new bill also amends the Freedom of Information Act to prohibit intelligence agencies from complying with FOIA requests submitted by foreign governments (Section 312). Characteristically, this new provision was never the subject of public hearings or any other form of deliberation that might have permitted critical public input.

The new conference committee report on the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2003 is posted here:


The Bush Administration is quietly revisiting the question of whether to renew nuclear explosive testing in order to ensure nuclear weapon stockpile reliability and to permit the design of new nuclear weapons, according to a recent Pentagon memorandum.

See "U.S. ponders resumption of nuke-weapons test" by Dan Stober and Jonathan S. Landay, San Jose Mercury News, November 15:

The rationale for new nuclear weapons as an instrument of counterproliferation was critiqued by Michael A. Levi of the Federation of American Scientists in a paper prepared for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. See his "Fire in the Hole: Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Options for Counterproliferation" here:


The enduring question of the proper relationship between academia, with its presumption of openness, and the CIA, with its habitual practices of secrecy and deception, was ventilated once again last week on the Pacifica radio program Democracy Now.

Political scientists David Gibbs and Robert Jervis tackled the issue from opposing points of view in a conversation that was civil but direct and penetrating.

The 20 minute audio program can be accessed through this page (towards the bottom):

Related resources, critical of a CIA presence in academia, are offered by Daniel Brandt's Public Interest Research here:


The pending Homeland Security Act includes "the most severe weakening of the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] in its 36-year history," Senator Patrick Leahy told the Washington Post. See "Disclosure Curbs in Homeland Bill Decried" by Dan Morgan, Washington Post, November 16:

and "Homeland bill's secrecy rules criticized" by Tamara Lytle, Orlando Sentinel, November 15:

A November 14 New York Times column by William Safire galvanized public concern about the privacy implications of DARPA's "Total Information Awareness" initiative that would probe databases of private transactions in search of terrorists. A November 16 Washington Post editorial put the matter in some perspective:

By creating a new Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, the Pentagon has done approximately the opposite of what was recommended by a classified review of U.S. intelligence headed by Brent Scowcroft last year. See "New Intelligence Post Consolidates Rumsfeld's Clout" by Vernon Loeb in the Washington Post online, November 18:


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

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