from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 122
December 12, 2002


In an act of bureaucratic dementia, the Central Intelligence Agency has decided to reassert the obviously false claim that declassification of the intelligence budget totals from 1947 and 1948 would cause damage to the national security of the United States and would compromise intelligence sources and methods.

The CIA, unable to admit error and adjust its policies accordingly, reiterated its bizarre classification position this week in a brief filed in opposition to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Federation of American Scientists that seeks disclosure of the historical budget totals.

In response to previous litigation, budget totals from 1997 and 1998 have previously been disclosed. However, CIA inexplicably holds that the same information from 50 years earlier is too sensitive to release.

Perhaps more than any other single failing, CIA's inability to adapt its information policies to current realities suggests that the Agency may have reached the end of its useful lifetime.

The Justice Department, in accordance with Attorney General Ashcroft's October 2001 Freedom of Information policy statement which discourages release of contested information, is vigorously defending the CIA position.

The CIA's initial reply to the FAS lawsuit is signed by three Justice Department attorneys, who probably did not have this kind of thing in mind when they went to law school. FAS is acting pro se, i.e. without legal representation.

At the end of a mostly formulaic response, the CIA feistily asks not only that the lawsuit be dismissed but that the Agency be awarded its costs. See the CIA's December 10 filing here:


While the CIA resists the disclosure of half-century-old budget numbers, a congressional joint committee is calling for a "more realistic" approach to the classification of intelligence information.

"I think that we need to re-examine the basic principles of what constitute the national security, in terms of what information should be withheld, what information should be shared," said Sen. Bob Graham, outgoing chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and co-chair of the congressional Joint Inquiry into September 11, speaking at a press conference yesterday on the release of the Inquiry's final report.

"I am concerned that a lot of, I think, an excessive amount of the rationale for classification and, then, declassification has more to do with avoiding the embarrassment of what it would mean to an agency and possibly to individuals by letting the American people know how their agencies are functioning," Sen. Graham said.

"And finally, I think there is a great conflict of interest when you have the same people classifying information, who are then asked to declassify. They have a vested interest in disclosure and they have a vested interest in not lifting the veil," he said.

The findings and recommendations of the congressional Joint Inquiry, along with a lengthy dissenting report from Senator Richard Shelby, are posted here:


The Bush Administration released a six page document entitled "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction," which warns that the United States would resort to "all of our options" in response to the use of weapons of mass destruction.

The unclassified strategy document corresponds to the classified National Security Presidential Directive 17, the Washington Post reported. See the text here:


Iraq has carried out a remarkably robust and diverse program on weapons of mass destruction, judging from the table of contents of its declaration to the United Nations Security Council.

In a December 7 note from Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, Iraq thoughtfully cautioned that publication of the detailed information contained in its unreleased declaration "entails risk and is inconsistent with the norms of the weapons non- proliferation regime."

See the table of contents of the Iraqi declaration here:


"The world needs peace, the people want cooperation, nations long for development and society aspires for progress."

So begins "China's National Defense in 2002," a new white paper on the defense policy of the People's Republic of China. It is the fourth such publication issued since 1995.

The document provides official statements on defense spending (169.444 billion yuan in 2002) as well as the size of the armed forces (less than 2.5 million members in the People's Liberation Army), and pronounces on Chinese military objectives and interests. See the English text, published December 9, here:


The debate over non-lethal weapons is updated in "Bang! You're Incapacitated" by Brad Knickerbocker in the Christian Science Monitor, December 12:

One account of the conclusions of the congressional Joint Inquiry into September 11 is provided in "Intelligence overhaul necessary, panel says" by Mary Jacoby, St. Petersburg Times, December 12:

The imperative of sharing information related to homeland security will sooner or later have to confront the aging machinery of the security clearance system. See "Feds Seek to Share More Threat Information Without Security Clearances," by Chuck McCutcheon, Newhouse News, December 11:


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

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