from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 7
January 16, 2003


There is still too much sensitive information available on DoD web sites that must be removed, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned in a message circulated throughout the Defense Department this week.

Thousands of unclassified Defense Department web pages have been modified or removed from public access since September 11, 2001, in the name of operational security.

But citing an al Qaeda terrorist training manual, Secretary Rumsfeld said "One must conclude our enemies access DoD web sites on a regular basis."

"The fact that For Official Use Only (FOUO) and other sensitive unclassified information (e.g., CONOPS, OPLANS, SOP) continues to be found on public web sites indicates that too often data posted are insufficiently reviewed for sensitivity and/or inadequately protected. Over 1500 discrepancies were found during the past year," he wrote. "This continuing trend must be reversed."

"Thinking about what may be helpful to an adversary prior to posting any information to the web could eliminate many vulnerabilities," he advised.

However, such guidance, taken by itself, would dictate the elimination of nearly all accurate information from DoD web sites since practically anything could be of use to an adversary in some conceivable scenario.

Secretary Rumsfeld's January 14 message on "Web Site OPSEC Discrepancies," which was first reported by Dan Dupont of, is available here:


When Drug Enforcement Administration analyst Jonathan Randel was sentenced this week to a year in prison for leaking unclassified government information to a British journalist, the law that he was found to have violated was not the Espionage Act, but another statute that treats government information as property -- the government's property -- that can be stolen or misappropriated.

18 United States Code section 641 ominously applies to "Whoever embezzles, steals, purloins, or knowingly converts to his use or the use of another, or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record, ... or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof" as well as "Whoever receives, conceals, or retains the same with intent to convert it to his use or gain, knowing it to have been embezzled, stolen, purloined or converted...." See:

The prohibition against conveying any information ("thing of value") without authority and against receiving that information would seem to have far reaching implications.

"Why bother with an Official Secrets Act with this thing on the books?" mused former CIA analyst Allen Thomson.

See also "Federal Worker Sentenced for Passing on Information" by Felicity Barringer, New York Times, January 16:


Senator Ron Wyden said he will seek legislation to "limit the scope" of DARPA's controversial Total Information Awareness (TIA) data mining program.

"My concern is the program that has been developed by Mr. Poindexter is going forward without congressional oversight and without clear accountability and guidelines," Sen. Wyden said. "It is time for the Senate to put some reins on this program before it grows exponentially and tips the balance with respect to privacy rights and the need to protect the national security in a fashion that is detrimental to our Nation." See:

An extraordinarily diverse coalition of civil liberties organizations -- from the ACLU to the American Conservative Union -- wrote to Congress this week asking that TIA be suspended. The letter, organized by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, is posted here:


In a remarkable medical development, genetically modified anthrax bacteria have been used successfully to shrink or eliminate certain types of cancers in laboratory mice.

"The engineered toxin displayed potent tumor cell cytotoxicity to a spectrum of transplanted tumors of diverse origin and could eradicate established solid tumors," according to a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

"The data show that a simple change of protease activation specificity converts anthrax toxin from a highly lethal to a potent tumoricidal agent."

See "Potent antitumor activity of a urokinase-activated engineered anthrax toxin," by Shihui Liu, et al, PNAS, January 13, here (flagged by

The continuing progress on this work is a timely reminder of the potential benefits of scientific research involving highly toxic materials.

Such benefits could be jeopardized by the increasing security restrictions placed on research involving certain toxic materials, including "select agents" such as anthrax.


The question of whether or not to declassify the mere fact that the United States makes use of reconnaissance satellites was a point of contention in 1978.

The issue was meticulously examined from all angles. There were positive aspects: It "would add to government credibility by admitting to fact that is already widely known." But also negative features to consider: "There is concern about a succession of further inquiries and disclosures, particularly FOIA."

Following arduous interagency consultations, the "fact of" U.S. spy satellites was eventually declassified.

One record of that old, but still interesting, debate is a 1978 memorandum for the Director of Central Intelligence briefing him on the issue. A copy of the memorandum, declassified last year, is available here (thanks to MJR and JTR):


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

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