from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 48
June 6, 2003


Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday rejected congressional criticism of his Department for withholding a new internal report on the controversial Wen Ho Lee case.

"There are lots of times, especially in international intelligence security matters, when we don't release things because it's not in the national interest to do so," the Attorney General said at a House Judiciary hearing on June 5.

He was responding to comments from Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA) who cited the Justice Department's refusal to release the new report as part of a pattern of improper withholding.

"The picture this presents," said Rep. Delahunt, "is of a government obsessed with secrecy -- of a 'culture of concealment,' as Senator Grassley has described the ethos within the FBI -- that can only feed public fears and undermine confidence in the justice system."

The Justice Department last week denied a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists for a copy of the Wen Ho Lee report. The denial was appealed on June 3. On June 5 a Department spokesman told the Associated Press that portions of the report may yet be declassified and released.

See "Justice Department refuses to release report on Lee case" by Leslie Hoffman, Associated Press, June 5:


"The fundamental question that is nagging at many is this," said Sen. Robert Byrd: "How reliable were the claims of this President and key members of his administration that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction posed a clear and imminent threat to the United States, such a grave threat that immediate war was the only recourse?"

Senator Byrd (D-WV) posed that challenging question in a plain-spoken and penetrating floor statement June 5:

Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee attempted to assert control over the brewing controversy concerning pre-war intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction by taking the matter behind closed doors and implicitly devaluing the views of others.

"The Committee's responsible handling of this important review will enable it to determine if a hearing or further action should or will take place," the Committee loftily declared in a June 4 press release:

The eruption of a parallel, even more heated controversy in the United Kingdom has created a peculiar political dynamic that has so far stymied efforts here to contain the debate or to frame it as a purely partisan dispute.


The continued classification of historical U.S. nuclear weapons storage locations around the world will be reviewed by the Department of Defense and other agencies, and may be revised later this year, according to the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO).

The secrecy of these locations, which in many cases have long since ceased to be operational, impedes the declassification of historical records and accounts for the most frequent inadvertent disclosures of nominally classified information. Historians had written to ISOO last year to urge reconsideration of this category of secrecy.

In response, ISOO director J. William Leonard reported that the Departments of Defense, State and Energy would address the matter. "Without committing to any specific change, all three entities expressed a willingness to review certain aspects of this issue," he wrote in an April 2 letter to historian Priscilla McMillan:

"I don't expect anything new on any internal DoD review until late summer at the earliest," Mr. Leonard said this week.


The Central Intelligence Agency requested and received a three week extension to present its opposition to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking declassification and disclosure of the 2002 intelligence budget total.

The Agency was supposed to file a response today, but "The briefing schedule currently in place did not anticipate plaintiff's filing of a cross-motion for summary judgment." Accordingly, the due date was extended until June 27:

Also on June 27, in response to a separate FOIA lawsuit, CIA will address the disclosure of historical intelligence budget information dating back to 1947.


The State Department has published a new volume of its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series entitled "Foundations of Foreign Policy," 1969-1976, that focuses on the "worldviews" of President Nixon and National Security Adviser Kissinger.

Unlike previous volumes that straightforwardly documented events, issues and diplomatic activities, the new volume attempts to provide a quasi-interpretive account of "the intellectual assumptions that U.S. foreign affairs leaders used to make sense of the world and to frame their basic policies."

The success of this approach is questionable. To one reader's dismay, the new volume seems to include an unusually high fraction of documents that are already in the public domain and that have even been published in other official publications. That is not what FRUS is known for or needed for. (The volume does include some material "extracted from still-classified documents.")

The full text of the new FRUS volume is posted here:


"No constitutional language authorizes the president to withhold documents from Congress, nor does any provision empower Congress to demand and receive information from the executive branch," observes Louis Fisher.

Yet on this uncertain foundation, an entire edifice of policy and practice has evolved to deal with conflicts between the executive and legislative branches over access to information. The most important aspects of the issue and the principal tools available to legislators are examined in a recent paper by Fisher, a scholar at the Congressional Research Service.

See "Congressional Access to Information: Using Legislative Will and Leverage," by Louis Fisher, Duke Law Journal, Volume 52, No. 2, November 2002, newly available online here:


"In the early stages of his administration, President George W. Bush has already made substantial use of executive privilege in circumstances where the exercise of that power is highly debatable," observes Mark J. Rozell of Catholic University.

"President Bush has exercised the privilege in an attempt to reestablish what he perceives as a more correct balance of powers between the legislative and executive branches. Still, because President Bush has departed from recognized executive privilege norms, he has ultimately weakened executive privilege," he contends.

See "Executive Privilege Revived?: Secrecy and Conflict During the Bush Conflict," by Mark J. Rozell, Duke Law Journal, Volume 52, No. 2, November 2002, here:


The KH-7 spy satellite, first launched by the Air Force in July 1963, was also the first to provide high-resolution imagery to U.S. intelligence analysts.

The achievements of the KH-7 program, which lasted for four years, are surveyed by intelligence historian Jeffrey T. Richelson in "A 'Rifle' in Space," Air Force Magazine, June 2003:


Last month Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) led a six member congressional delegation to North Korea, the first such visit by any elected official in six years, in an effort to engage North Korean officials in dialog about their nuclear programs and other points of conflict with the United States.

Rep. Weldon summarized the outcome of the visit diplomatically: "The demonstrated goodwill and willingness to go beyond first level posturing gave the delegation reason to believe that there are options that should be considered to avoid conflict and resolve critical outstanding issues in a way satisfactory to both sides."

A report of the congressional delegation visit to North Korea, published in the Congressional Record on June 4, is posted here:


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

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