from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 118
November 27, 2002


In an astonishing move that heralds stark limits on the scope of the investigation of the September 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush today named former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to be head of the congressionally mandated Commission that will conduct the next phase of the investigation.

"Dr. Kissinger will bring broad experience, clear thinking and careful judgment to this important task," the President said in signing the 2003 Intelligence Authorization Act.

But Kissinger is not distinguished as an impartial judge of government misconduct, to put it mildly. To the contrary, he is an investigatee, not an investigator, and one who has stubbornly resisted the disclosure of official information to members of Congress, courts of law, private researchers, and others.

With his appointment, it becomes hard to imagine, for example, that the new Commission would ever subpoena the White House for access to the President's Daily Brief that reportedly warned of the potential for terrorism in August 2001.


New information about the scope and budget of the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness (TIA) initiative has emerged, as the controversial program to develop a vast transactional database of personal information for hunting terrorists continued to draw bipartisan criticism.

Though the Pentagon said last week that the TIA budget was a mere $10 million, a close analysis by the Electronic Privacy Information Center found that total spending for all TIA component programs was closer to $245 million during FY 2001-03. See materials from a November 25 EPIC press briefing on TIA here:

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the incoming Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, questioned "why DoD resources are being spent on research for domestic law enforcement," and asked the Pentagon Inspector General to "conduct a complete and thorough review of the TIA program." See Sen. Grassley's November 22 letter here:

Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told ABC News This Week on November 24 that he had asked Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to fire Adm. John Poindexter, the head of the DARPA Information Awareness Office, because of Poindexter's record of having lied to Congress.

Questioned about the whole matter on November 18, Secretary Rumsfeld told Americans not to worry.

"I haven't been briefed on it [TIA]; I'm not knowledgeable about it. Anyone who is concerned ought not be. Anyone with any concern ought to be able to sleep well tonight. Nothing terrible is going to happen." See:

See also "A One-Way Information Highway: The homeland security bill shows a government that wants to learn more and divulge less" by James Kuhnhenn and Drew Brown, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 24:

"Lawmakers, privacy advocates and civil libertarians are criticizing a controversial Defense Department research project as an invasion of personal privacy, and are questioning whether it should be scrapped," writes Shane Harris in Government Executive, November 25:

"Big Brother Will Be Watching America," according to the headline of a story by Suzanne Goldenberg in the Guardian, November 23:

Author and security analyst George Smith notes that the Total Information Awareness program bears a spooky resemblance to a system conceived by the Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem in one of his dystopic tales. See Smith's article "When Washington Mimics Sci-Fi" in Security Focus, November 24:


In an open-ended congressional invitation to increase official secrecy, the new Homeland Security Act instructs the President to "identify and safeguard homeland security information that is sensitive but unclassified" (Section 892).

Because the new law provides no formal definition of the word "sensitive," this provision could be used to justify expansive new restrictions on the disclosure of unclassified information.

While "sensitive" information has been referenced in a number of laws such as the Computer Security Act of 1987, this is apparently the first time that the problematic category of "sensitive but unclassified" information has appeared in a federal statute.


Defense Secretary Rumsfeld last week likened the brewing controversy over the Total Information Awareness program to an earlier dispute over the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence, which critics asserted -- erroneously, according to the Pentagon -- was created to engage in disinformation.

As a result of all of the negative publicity, the Office of Strategic Influence was shut down. Or maybe it wasn't. Rumsfeld said last week that only the name has been abandoned. The Office's intended functions are being carried out.

"And then there was the Office of Strategic Influence," Rumsfeld reminisced on November 18. "You may recall that. And 'oh my goodness gracious isn't that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall.' I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing, fine, I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have."

See excerpts from Rumsfeld's November 18 media availability:


The study of national security law is not only intrinsically important, it can also be very interesting. The premier casebook for students of the subject is "National Security Law" by professors Stephen Dycus, Arthur L. Berney, William C. Banks, and Peter Raven-Hansen.

The third edition of the book has just been published with a timely new section on "Fighting Terrorists and International Criminals."

The book offers an excellent selection of key statutes and rulings, along with interpretive commentary, questions for discussion, and further references.

For further information search "National Security Law" on the publisher's web site:


In an ongoing review of previously declassified public records at the National Archives, Energy Department reviewers found 47 pages of classified nuclear weapons information that was inadvertently disclosed out of approximately two million pages that they reviewed earlier this year.

An assessment of the damage, if any, that might have resulted from the disclosures was said to be underway.

The inadvertent disclosures were described in a classified report to Congress dated May 2002 that was published in declassified form by the Department of Energy this week.

While some of the disclosures apparently involved sensitive nuclear weapons design information, the most common accidental disclosures concerned historical "nuclear weapons storage locations" from decades ago that, while formally classified, are no longer sensitive, some Energy Department officials privately acknowledge.

At a meeting with Energy Department and National Archives officials last week, a working group of non-governmental historians resolved to press for a revision of classification policy so that historical nuclear weapons locations would no longer be considered classified.

A copy of the DOE latest Report to Congress on Inadvertent Releases of Restricted Data and Formerly Restricted Data is posted here:


The performance of U.S. intelligence is degraded by the public availability of information about intelligence, according to a congressional staffer, and non-governmental organizations that publish such information, such as the Federation of American Scientists, are part of the problem, he said.

"Too many people in the world today know how we go about our business," said Timothy R. Sample, staff director of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, speaking November 22 at an American Bar Association conference on "National Security Law In A Changing World" in Arlington, Virginia.

"I would argue that what I will call intelligence oversight 'hobby shopping' by individuals who get a kick out of just supplying information -- especially when it's for no real cause; but in the name of 'openness' -- have absolutely no idea what the impact of their information is, and how damaging it can be," Mr. Sample said.

"And I would take, for example -- though I may pay for it later -- I would take, for example, if you go to some of the things that have been released by the American Federation of Science [sic]. There is a web site that has information on it. And I can't say whether it's good information, bad information -- it's a lot of information. And it is for no particular purpose. Other than, hey, look what I found out, and I'm going to put it out."

"That, to me, is a specific area that nobody wants to talk about too much. And that, to me, is something we also have to put into the equation," he said.

Limiting publication of intelligence information to that which has an approved "purpose" would not be a sensible way to navigate between competing and sometimes conflicting interests in security and public disclosure. It does, however, help to explain why Mr. Sample's Committee's web site is practically barren and devoid of interest:


"The Enduring Significance of John Rawls" is an appreciation of the work of political philosopher John Rawls, who died November 24. It was written by Martha Nussbaum and appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education on July 20, 2001. See:


The Defense Department is looking for a historian to research and write a classified history of the role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).

"The contractor shall research and write a volume that will provide a narrative account of the CJCS/Joint Staff and JCS involvement in the development of national security/counter-terrorism policy and counter-terrorist operations for the GWOT during the eighteen months following the attacks of 11 September 2001." (Thanks to WMA.) See:


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

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