from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 49
June 12, 2003
INTELLIGENCE BUDGETS DISCLOSED -- ABROAD
- INTELLIGENCE BUDGETS DISCLOSED -- ABROAD
- INTELLIGENCE OVERSIGHT TESTED BY IRAQI WMD DEBATE
- ENHANCED WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION SOUGHT
- PURSUING THE WEN HO LEE REPORT
- AGROTERRORISM AND SECRECY
- ABUSE OF FOIA "OPERATIONAL FILES" EXEMPTION
Intelligence services in other Western democracies are doing what the U.S. intelligence community says cannot and should not be done: They are routinely disclosing intelligence budget information to their citizens.
Last week the Canadian Security Intelligence Service published its 2002 annual report. Following a review of the global threat environment and the CSIS response, the report presents a bar chart that displays the agency's budget totals over the past decade, and projects spending five years into the future. The totals are further broken down into operating costs, salaries and construction costs. See:
This week the United Kingdom's Intelligence and Security Committee presented its 2002-2003 parliamentary report on the UK's intelligence services. The report included publication of the "single intelligence account" which is the aggregate of expenditures for the GCHQ, the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) for 2001-2006. See the new report (flagged by cryptome.org) reposted here:
In contrast, Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet recently declared under penalty of perjury that not even a single two year old aggregate figure for U.S. intelligence spending could be declassified. Disclosure of this number, he said, would result in damage to U.S. national security and the compromise of intelligence sources and methods. See:
INTELLIGENCE OVERSIGHT TESTED BY IRAQI WMD DEBATE
The mounting controversy over the accuracy and integrity of U.S. intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq has fractured the congressional intelligence committees along partisan lines.
The Republican leadership is refusing to undertake anything resembling an investigation. The very word "investigation" is "pejorative," said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Pat Roberts at a press briefing on June 11, and implies "that there's something dreadfully wrong." Instead, the Committee will review the matter "as part of [its] ongoing oversight responsibility." See:
"But closed hearings and review of documents presented by the administration are not sufficient," replied Committee Vice Chairman Senator John D. Rockefeller IV. "A full fact-finding investigation is the usual mechanism for congressional oversight committees like the Senate Intelligence Committee in a circumstance like this one." See:
But the issue has already spilled over well beyond the control of the intelligence committees. "Bush Administration Deceptions About Iraq Threaten Constitutional Democracy" warned Rep. John Conyers, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, in a June 11 floor statement that probably represents the kind of thing Senator Roberts hoped to forestall. See:
In a series of letters, Rep. Henry Waxman of the House Government Reform Committee has pressed the Administration to account for the false information on Iraqi acquisition of uranium that President Bush presented in the State of the Union address. See:
Meanwhile, new information is entering the public domain not through the oversight process but through media accounts, such as "CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq on Iraq Data" by Walter Pincus, Washington Post, June 12:
ENHANCED WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION SOUGHT
New legislation to protect whistleblowers -- individuals who "blow the whistle" and expose fraudulent or wasteful activity -- was introduced this week by Senators Akaka, Leahy, Levin, Durbin and Dayton.
"Whistleblowers have proven to be important catalysts for much needed government change over the years," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). "From corporate fraud to governmental misconduct to media integrity, the importance of whistleblowers in galvanizing positive change cannot be questioned."
"Whistleblowing is never more important than when our national security is at stake," said Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), citing the case of FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley and others.
Yet the existing protections against retaliation that were codified in the Whistleblower Protection Act in 1994 have been steadily eroded over the years. In 1999, for example, a court took it upon itself to rule that whistleblowers were not entitled to the law's protection unless they had "irrefragable proof" of their claims. This ruling sent government employees and attorneys alike rushing to their dictionaries, where they discovered that "irrefragable" means "impossible to refute."
This extreme interpretation was never Congress' intent, legislators said. "To address this unreasonable burden placed on whistleblowers, our bill would replace the 'irrefragable proof' standard with 'substantial evidence'," said Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI).
See the"Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act" (S.1229), with introductory statements by Senators Akaka, Levin and Leahy here:
Whistleblower protection has "a bi-partisan constituency that spans the ideological spectrum," observed Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project and Kris Kolesnik of the National Whistleblower Center, supporters of the new legislation.
PURSUING THE WEN HO LEE REPORT
In an editorial entitled "Unchecked Power Is An Invitation to Abuse," the Albuquerque Journal this week called on Congress to compel the release of a new report on the Wen Ho Lee case that has been withheld by the Justice Department.
"Anyone who harbors no misgivings about the Justice Department cure being worse than the ailment of terrorism ought to study the case of Wen Ho Lee. But that's not possible, because the Justice Department won't allow it." See:
AGROTERRORISM AND SECRECY
The Department of Homeland Security has classified "many" studies of agroterrorism -- the potential terrorist threat to food supplies -- according to Dr. Robert E. Brackett of the Food and Drug Administration, as reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The studies were classified, he indicated, in order to conceal vulnerabilities that could be exploited by terrorists or other malicious persons.
But in an increasingly familiar conundrum, this approach to security through concealment has had unintended negative consequences.
In particular, "As a result of the secrecy, FDA officials are finding it 'very difficult' to work with the food industry to close the security gaps, Brackett said."
See "'Agroterrorism' poses devastating threat" by Michael Woods, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 23:
ABUSE OF FOIA "OPERATIONAL FILES" EXEMPTION
Intelligence agencies are improperly invoking an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act that was narrowly intended to protect "operational" files and using the exemption to deny public access to historical records, administrative files and other documents that are far outside the intended exemption.
Some recent abuses of the operational files exemption by the National Reconnaissance Office and the Central Intelligence Agency are documented in a new release from the National Security Archive here:
This record of abuse implicitly calls into question the propriety of a new operational files exemption for the National Security Agency that is pending in the 2004 defense authorization and intelligence bills.
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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