from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 24
March 20, 2003


Information policy, including both secrecy and strategic disclosure, is one of the weapons of war, used to coerce, threaten or seduce the enemy, to protect sensitive operations, and to mobilize and sustain public support.

However, the efficiency of this form of "information warfare" is undermined by the growing multiplicity of competing information channels, including internet-based news media.

In a blunt effort to cope with this new reality, Israel's military censor yesterday contacted several Israeli websites to "remind" them -- to uncertain effect -- that they are required to comply with the same censorship rules as are print and broadcast media.

"Censors will be working 24 hours a day" to review submissions, Brig. Gen. Rachel Dolev wrote. "Given the circumstances [of the war on Iraq], I know I can count on your full cooperation, as required."

The Israeli Chief Censor's March 19 memos were posted on the web by Israeli attorney Boaz Guttman. Translations and a link to the originals may be found here:

The United States Government does not normally practice censorship in the narrow sense of restricting or altering news reports. But it generates classified "secrets" at a faster pace than any other country and imposes a variety of controls on unclassified information as well.

A compendium of "Department of Defense Webmasters Policies And Guidelines," including discussions of what information may and may not be published online, may be found here:


The National Security Agency is asking Congress to grant an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act for NSA "operational files," enabling the Agency to categorically reject FOIA requests for such files.

The proposed exemption was included in a package of legislative proposals submitted for consideration in the FY 2004 Defense Authorization Act.

"Currently, when NSA receives a FOIA request for records that document the means by which foreign intelligence or counterintelligence is collected through technical means, the Agency almost invariably withholds them on the bases that they are classified and pertain to core Agency activities," according to the DoD request. "Yet, processing these requests may require Agency personnel to be diverted from key mission areas, such as fighting the war on terrorism."

Similar exemptions have been granted to the CIA (in 1984), the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (1999), and the National Reconnaissance Office (2002). Remarkably, a proposal to exempt operational files of the Defense Intelligence Agency from FOIA was rejected in 2000 after public controversy erupted.

The NSA FOIA exemption proposal was first reported by Anne Plummer in Inside the Pentagon on March 20.

The text of the Defense Department's justification for the proposal may be found here:


The ongoing debate over whether and how to regulate potentially dangerous scientific research is yielding a consensus of opinion that rejects externally-imposed controls and depends strongly on self-regulation by scientists themselves.

"Traditional 'command and control' governance mechanisms will not work," wrote Gigi Kwik in the latest issue of Biodefense Quarterly. "Traditional approaches are neither effective nor efficient when applied to complex, diffuse, and rapidly evolving entitities like... bioscience."

"Over time, we must build a network of checks and balances: regulations, incentives, cultural expectations and practices that encourage and enable progress in scientific understanding ... while simultaneously assuring responsible stewardship of bioscience so that it is not used for malevolent purposes," she said.

Dr. Kwik proposed a set of principles to inform and guide future debate on the subject. See her "Biosecurity: Science in the Balance" in Biodefense Quarterly, the newsletter of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, Winter 2003:


"The Judge Advocate's Handbook For Litigating National Security Cases: Prosecuting, Defending and Adjudicating National Security Cases," Office of the Judge Advocate General, Department of the Navy, 2002:

"Iraq: Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Capable Missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)" by Andrew Feickert, Congressional Research Service, updated March 3, 2003:

"Foreign Students in the United States: Policies and Legislation" by Ruth Ellen Wasem, Congressional Research Service, updated January 24, 2003:


A new book by ultra-orthodox Rabbi Nathan Kamenetsky, entitled "The Making of a Godol [Great Man]" has been banned by other ultra-orthodox rabbis, who have burned copies of the book and defamed its author for his respectful but unvarnished description of leading figures in the early 20th century orthodox Jewish world. See this account in the March 14 Forward:

This is more than just a tiresome sectarian squabble. It is part of a fascinating confrontation with history that has wracked orthodox Jewry in recent years, raising profound questions about "the uses and disadvantages of history for life."

In ultra-orthodox circles, history is not a matter of books and conferences. It is an existential challenge that can keep you up at night, and drive you to extremes. The unfolding conflict has divided the community between those who insist that history must be contained within the boundaries of hagiography so as to edify its readers and those, like R. Kamenetsky, who contend that "truth is the seal of God."

Central features of the dispute were sensitively described by Rabbi Jacob J. Schacter in "Facing the Truths of History," Torah U-Madda Journal, published by Yeshiva University, Volume 8, 1998-1999, pp. 200-276.

Orthodox Jewish historiography can be a hoot. Analysis of one early twentieth century orthodox "history" volume revealed that its author had lifted the fictional plot and characters of an 1898 short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, entitled "The Jew's Breastplate," and incorporated them in his purportedly non-fictional text. An astonishing account of this imaginative excursion is presented in "The Adventure of the Maharal of Prague in London" by Prof. Shnayer Z. Leiman, Tradition, published by the Rabbinical Council of America, vol. 36, no. 1, spring 2002, pp. 26-58.


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

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