from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 3
January 10, 2003


Changes in security policy are far more difficult to achieve than they ought to be. Cut classification by 90%? Streamline the security clearance process? Eliminate polygraph testing? Good luck. The past decade has seen dozens or hundreds of specific, well-argued proposals for security policy reform that have gone nowhere.

The problem is that every effort to promote systemic reform elicits systemic opposition. It appears that there are too many people and too much money invested in the status quo to allow comprehensive policy changes of any significance.

One way to overcome this seemingly insurmountable hurdle would be to establish a security policy "enterprise zone," a domain within or alongside the national security bureaucracy in which innovative security policies could be tried out and validated.

This kind of bounded "laboratory" environment would not immediately threaten the prejudices or prerogatives of the security bureaucrats, and because of its limited reach, the consequences of a failed experiment should be tolerable. In fact, even failure could be considered a success, in the sense that it would provide information that would be useful in refining future experiments.

Those security policy pilot projects that were successful -- in terms of reduced costs, increased productivity, etc. -- would invite replication in other parts of the national security bureaucracy. At a minimum, those at the CIA, the Pentagon, and elsewhere who cling to industrial age security policies would be compelled to justify their resistance to the demonstrably superior alternative.

In one very modest example of such an experimental approach to security policy, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) requested that the Federal Building in San Francisco accept identification cards issued by the Mexican consulate as proper identification for visitors seeking to conduct business at the building. This practice has now been adopted on a four month trial basis, and only at this facility.

See Rep. Pelosi's "Statement on Matricula Consular Identification Card," January 3:

Remarkably, even this modest step has drawn opposition from those concerned that it would serve illegal aliens and legitimize their status. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) called Rep. Pelosi a "co-conspirator" who "encourages people to violate the laws of this nation," according to the Washington Times (which erroneously identified Mr. Tancredo as a Democrat).

See "Federal Facility Accepts Mexican ID at Pelosi's Request" by Stephan Dinan, Washington Times, January 10:

Despite the nasty, reflexive criticism, the proposal is in place, thanks to Rep. Pelosi, and it will succeed or fail with interesting consequences.

There are many similar experiments waiting to be tried.


The post-9/11 legal landscape continues to shift dramatically with a new federal appeals court ruling that an American citizen who is designated an "enemy combatant" may be detained indefinitely without access to an attorney.

"The government has asserted nothing less than the ability to designate certain individuals -- at the whim of the president -- as beyond the shelter of the Bill of Rights," according to a Washington Post editorial today critical of the decision:

The ruling itself, in the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, may be found here:

The government wasted no time in applying the new ruling to another case, arguing that suspected "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla is also not entitled to an attorney even though Padilla, unlike Hamdi, was apprehended in the United States, not on the battlefield.

See "U.S. Asks Judge to Deny Terror Suspect Access to Lawyer, Saying It Could Harm Interrogation" by Benjamin Weiser, New York Times, January 10:


Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) was officially named the new chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the 108th Congress.

"I believe strongly that one can be an advocate for the men and women of our intelligence agencies while at the same time ensuring that we safeguard the American people and make sure that they are getting their money's worth," Sen. Roberts said in a January 7 press release:

However, Sen. Roberts does not believe the American people should be permitted to know how much of their money they are getting their money's worth for. He voted against declassifying the intelligence budget total in 1997, shortly before the 1997 budget figure was declassified anyway as the result of Freedom of Information Act litigation.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WVa) will be the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

On the House side, Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) was reappointed to the Chairmanship. "I postponed my retirement plans for one final term in Congress so I could continue to spearhead the responsibilities charged to the Intelligence Committee," he said in a January 9 press release:

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) will be the new Ranking Minority member. She outlined her Committee agenda in a January 9 press release here:


A day long conference on scientific openness and national security was held in Washington yesterday, sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. See "Scientists Discuss Balance of Research and Security" by Diana Jean Schemo, New York Times, January 10:

Old fashioned corruption and venality, rather than national security defects, are the source of the latest upheaval at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. See "UC replaces labs vice president under threat of losing contract" by Andrea Widener, San Jose Mercury News, January 9:


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

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