from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 67
August 6, 2003


Should the United States establish a new domestic intelligence agency along the lines of Britain's Security Service (MI5) to take over the intelligence duties currently assigned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation?

Such a proposal has been advanced by Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), among others, who has argued that "the law enforcement responsibilities of the Bureau are inconsistent with, and will continue to undermine, its ability to be an effective intelligence agency."

Sen. Edwards introduced legislation last February to create a new Homeland Intelligence Agency which, he said, would be entirely compatible "with appropriate respect for the privacy and civil liberties of United States persons." See his "Foreign Intelligence Collection Improvement Act" (S.410) here:

The proposal was critically examined in a Congressional Research Service report entitled "Domestic Intelligence in the United Kingdom: Applicability of the MI-5 Model to the United States" by Todd Masse, May 19, 2003. See:

See also "Intelligence Critics Urge U.S. to Look to British Spy Agency" by Don Van Natta, Jr., New York Times, July 26, 2003.


U.S. policy as set forth in President Reagan's 1982 Executive Order 12333 formally prohibits assassination. But exactly what does that mean? The term is not defined.

It is clear that targeted killing of an enemy combatant in wartime is not assassination, and it is clear that targeted killing of a political leader in peacetime is. But what about the targeted killing of a political leader (e.g. Saddam Hussein) in wartime?

And given the Administration claim that the President has unchecked authority to designate as an "enemy combatant" even an American citizen found in the United States (e.g. Jose Padilla), could he also order his summary execution as an act of war?

An introduction to such thorny issues is provided in "Assassination Ban and E.O. 12333: A Brief Summary" by Elizabeth B. Bazan, Congressional Research Service, January 4, 2002, newly available here:


"The Library, Bookseller, and Personal Records Privacy Act" (S. 1507) was introduced by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and several co-sponsors. It would amend the USA Patriot Act to impose new limits on government access to library, bookseller, and other personal records in foreign intelligence and counterintelligence investigations. See:

"The Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act" (S. 1552) was introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (D-AK) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). It would amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act so as"to strengthen protections of civil liberties in the exercise of the foreign intelligence surveillance authorities under Federal law." See:

Senators Lott, Byrd, Grassley and Wyden introduced a bipartisan resolution to eliminate anonymous "holds," a procedural maneuver used to block legislation or nominations. Holds would still be permitted, but they could no longer be applied anonymously. See:


Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson said this week that the Bush Administration was seeking to discourage those who, like him, were critical of the U.S. war against Iraq. In particular, he said that those Administration officials who reportedly named his wife as a CIA officer had done so in order to suppress dissenting views.

"The reason for it was not to smear me or to even smear my wife," Wilson said. "The reason was to intimidate others from coming forward."

See "U.S. Accused of Intimidation in Iraq Uranium Flap" by Toby Zakaria, Reuters, August 4:

But regardless of the motivation, leaking the name of an intelligence officer whose employment status is classified would be a violation of the law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which prohibits unauthorized disclosure of the names of clandestine intelligence personnel.

The Administration's response to the leak will thus be a test of its commitment to the law and to the security of classified information.

Secrecy News (7/28/03) garbled the description of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

The Act makes it a crime for an official who has authorized access to the names of intelligence officers or agents to disclose that information to an unauthorized person even on a one-time basis, as may have occurred in the case of Amb. Wilson's wife. It is also a crime for regular, uncleared individuals to disclose agent identities, but only when they do so as part of a "pattern of activities." See the text of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act here:


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

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