from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 5
January 14, 2003


Leading Republican Senators are complaining that Bush Administration secrecy policies are leaving them "out of the loop" on crucial defense and national security matters.

"I will not tolerate a continuation of what's been going on the last two years," said Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as quoted by columnist Robert Novak.

See "GOP senators on the warpath" by Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times, January 13:

See also "GOP veterans rap secrecy on defense issues" by James G. Lakely, Washington Times, January 14:

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer denied that there was a problem. "The administration has been very cooperative in providing as much information as possible to people up on Capitol Hill, and will continue to do so," he said.


Officials from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency decline to comment, but questions continue to arise about the Agency's Total Information Awareness (TIA) program, an effort to demonstrate the utility of "data mining" as a tool for fighting terrorism.

"Reliance on data mining by law enforcement agencies may produce an increase in false leads and law enforcement mistakes. While the former is a waste of resources, the latter may result in mistaken arrests or surveillance," wrote Senators Patrick Leahy, Russell Feingold and Maria Cantwell.

They sent a long letter on January 10 to Attorney General Ashcroft, posing dozens of questions about TIA and related data mining programs. See the text of the letter here:


When official secrecy becomes hopelessly indiscriminate or is deliberately abused to impede the deliberative process, then unauthorized disclosures of secret information can serve to restore balance and to provide the missing check on government authority.

That at least is the contention of Daniel Ellsberg, who famously leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press and who authored the recent memoir "Secrets."

In all of the recent discussion of leaks, notes Ellsberg, "I notice that one point of view not represented is that of the 'leaker,' the official who acts in the belief that an unauthorized disclosure is necessary, important, valuable, and that continued silence and deception is costly in terms of American lives and national security."

"It is not only leaks which can have costs and dangers in terms of national security and national interest-- official concealment and lies can also be dangerous and costly (and often are, for prolonged periods: viz. the Vietnam War, in which 58,000 Americans were lied to death, and there could have been more)," he wrote.

"Indeed, that's the situation we're in at the moment, which is why it appears that an unprecedented number of officials in the DOD, CIA and State are making unauthorized disclosures, very creditably."

"My memoir--by an acknowledged source, and one who apologizes only for my failure earlier to make the unauthorized disclosures I could and should have made--should illuminate for those without much high-level experience as a government insider just why the fight against an [Official Secrets Act] is so urgent and important."

"I would be happy to get responses from those who would disagree on any level. It would be very good to get a discussion going, the hotter the better, on the various issues raised by my account; as well as evoking thoughts on how to change norms, laws and behavior in this area," he wrote.

Further information about Daniel Ellberg's book "Secrets," including a sample chapter, reviews and contact information, may be found here:


"It seems to us that the universe of classified information is quite simply too large, and encompasses such a great variety of material... as to make impractical the idea of extending criminal sanctions to the unauthorized disclosure of all such information," wrote Anthony A. Lapham, CIA General Counsel, in a 1977 memorandum critiquing draft legislation to outlaw leaks of classified information.

The Lapham memorandum raised several of the same concerns about a broad anti-leak statute that would resurface in the most recent dispute over such legislation. No comprehensive anti-leak law has been adopted. Yet.

Anthony A. Lapham's 18 March 1977 memorandum, "CIA Comments on Draft Unauthorized Disclosure Legislation and Related Matters," was declassified and transferred to the National Archives in 2002. A copy is available here (thanks to MJR):


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

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