from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 68
August 11, 2003


The Bush Administration has engaged in "a systematic effort to manipulate facts in service to a totalistic ideology that is felt to be more important than the mandates of basic honesty," said former Vice President Al Gore in a pointed speech last week.

He itemized a series of what he said were "false impressions" propagated by Administration officials in connection with the war on Iraq. See the text of his August 7 speech here:

One need not be a Democratic partisan or agree with all the particulars of Gore's argument to sense that there is indeed something very wrong with the Bush Administration's public communications. Error, distortion and official misdirection are common threads binding several major news stories in the last few days alone.

Thus, the New York Times reported that "Engineering experts from the Defense Intelligence Agency have come to believe that the most likely use for two mysterious trailers found in Iraq was to produce hydrogen for weather balloons rather than to make biological weapons, government officials say."

The Bush Administration had triumphantly cited the trailers as unambiguous evidence of an Iraqi biological weapons program.

See "Iraqi Trailers Said To Make Hydrogen, Not Biological Arms" by Douglas Jehl, New York Times, August 9:

The next day the Washington Post provided a startling account of the Administration's misrepresentation of the Iraqi nuclear threat, lending weight to Gore's critique (even as a Post editorial contemptuously dismissed it).

"The new information indicates a pattern in which President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their subordinates -- in public and behind the scenes -- made allegations depicting Iraq's nuclear weapons program as more active, more certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they had would support," according to the Post story.

"On occasion administration advocates withheld evidence that did not conform to their views. The White House seldom corrected misstatements or acknowledged loss of confidence in information upon which it had previously relied."

See "Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence" by Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus, Washington Post, August 10:

And the problem is not limited to foreign policy.

"The Bush Administration has manipulated, distorted, or interfered with science on health, environmental, and other key issues," according to Rep. Henry Waxman and the minority staff of the House Government Reform Committee, who identified over twenty policy areas that they said had been skewed by ideological considerations. See:

If even half of these findings and allegations are correct, the implications are profound.

"The very idea of self-government depends upon honest and open debate as the preferred method for pursuing the truth -- and a shared respect for the Rule of Reason as the best way to establish the truth," said Gore. But "The Bush Administration routinely shows disrespect for that whole basic process."


The Democratic members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) last week endorsed the further declassification of withheld portions of the congressional joint inquiry report on September 11, including the missing 27 or 28 pages in Part IV of the report that outline foreign support of some of the 9/11 hijackers.

"We agree with a growing number of our colleagues in the House and Senate that there is a compelling national interest in releasing more of Part IV, and that doing so will not compromise important intelligence activities," the nine Democrats said in a statement released by Rep. Jane Harman.

The statement serves to sustain momentum for declassification and places pressure on HPSCI chairman Rep. Porter Goss to confront the issue.


Despite a penetrating critique by a National Academy of Sciences panel of the limitations of the polygraph for security screening, the Department of Energy (DOE) says it will continue to rely on the polygraph for this purpose.

The development and current status of DOE polygraph policy are reviewed in a new report for the Congressional Research Service by intelligence specialist Alfred Cumming.

See "Polygraph Use by the Department of Energy: Issues for Congress," July 8:


The Department of Energy is seeking to expand its application of the information control category "unclassified controlled nuclear information" (UCNI) to non-defense related Department facilities.

A provision in the 2004 Defense Authorization Act (section 3113 of H.R. 1588) would extend the Department's authority to withhold from public disclosure certain unclassified design and security information to encompass all DOE facilities. It currently applies only to defense-related facilities.

The measure would enable DOE "to shut the American public out of the Yucca Mountain Project process," complained Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV).

See "DOE seeks law that could tighten Yucca secrecy" by Steve Tetrault, Las Vegas Review-Journal, August 9:


In the latest volley in a continuing controversy, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson said he believes he knows who in the White House identified his wife as an intelligence officer, illegally breaking her cover in order to intimidate critics like him.

He told the St. Petersburg Times that he thinks he knows who the officials are, but that he is "not ready, yet" to publicly name them.

See "Blown Cover" by David Ballingrud, St. Petersburg Times, August 10:


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

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