from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 43
May 20, 2003


As nearly two dozen civil liberties, media and public interest organizations have challenged the need for a new Freedom of Information Act exemption for so-called "operational files" of the National Security Agency (NSA), the Senate Armed Services Committee has arranged a briefing to explore the matter.

"NSA needs the FOIA exemption in order to prevent the continued diversion of resources from its SIGINT [signals intelligence] mission," according to a two-page NSA justification for the measure.

But "while the intent behind the proposed exemption -- to avoid wasted effort searching highly classified files that would not be released in any case -- is understandable, the language of the provision is so broad that it could have significant unintended consequences," I argued in a prepared statement for the Armed Services Committee briefing.

Related resources from the National Security Archive are here:

For no good reason, the May 20 briefing, convened by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO), is to be held at the Top Secret/Codeword level. Uncleared staff and members of the public are not permitted to attend, and uncleared presenters must leave the secure briefing room following their presentation.


Upon examination of a million and a half pages of publicly accessible documents at the National Archives, reviewers from the Department of Energy found 336 pages containing nuclear weapons-related data that is still classified, according to the latest DOE report to Congress on inadvertent disclosures of classified information.

"The identified documents are in collections belonging to the Department of State and the Department of Defense (Army, Navy, and Joint Staff). The documents were inadvertently declassified and made available to the public during the years from 1995 to 1998 by the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and NARA," the report stated.

The most frequent type of inadvertent disclosure concerned the location of former nuclear weapons storage locations abroad, information that has no proliferation sensitivity. In some cases, however, weapon design information was also discovered.

The Ninth Report on Inadvertent Releases of Restricted Data and Formerly Restricted Data, dated November 2002, was published by the Department of Energy in declassified form on May 19. A copy is posted here:


With controversy over its Total Information Awareness program still fresh, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is embarking on a no less ambitious program to digitally "capture both the user's physical experiences in the world and his or her interactions with other entities in the world."

The DARPA LifeLog program was first reported today by Noah Shachtman in his web log Defense Tech and his related story in Wired News. See "DARPA Wants Your Life Indexable and Searchable":

and "A Spy Machine of DARPA's Dreams":

Further background from DARPA on the LifeLog concept is available here:


Judge Damon Keith of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently came to broad public attention with his ringing denunciation of secret deportation hearings: "Democracies die behind closed doors."

But (I recently learned) Judge Keith is practically a household name among students of national security law. His landmark ruling in the 1970s that limited government surveillance authority is commonly known as "the Keith case."

Marking his 35th year on the federal bench, Rep. John Conyers paid tribute to Judge Keith in a May 15 statement entered in the Congressional Record and posted here:


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

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, send an email message to with "subscribe" (without quotes) in the body of the message.

To UNSUBSCRIBE, send a blank email message to

OR email your request to

Secrecy News is archived at: