from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 82
September 30, 2003


"The President and I place deterring, detecting, and punishing unauthorized disclosures of U.S. national security secrets among our highest priorities, at all times, but especially in this time of war against terrorism of global reach," Attorney General John Ashcroft wrote in an October 2002 report to Congress.

That unequivocal assertion is now being put to the test in the face of renewed allegations that Bush Administration officials improperly disclosed the identity of a CIA officer serving under cover who happened to be the wife of an Administration critic, Amb. Joseph Wilson.

Detecting and punishing the leaker didn't exactly sound like one of the "highest priorities" of the White House at a rather evasive press briefing on the subject on September 29.

"My understanding is that if something like this happened and it was referred to the Department of Justice, then the Department of Justice would look to see whether or not there is enough information to pursue it further," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "But those are questions you need to ask the Department of Justice." See:

The Justice Department has reportedly opened an investigation into the matter.

Leaks, including intelligence-related leaks, are commonplace. But identification of leakers, let alone prosecution or other punishment, is rare.

"We file crimes reports with the attorney general every week about leaks," said DCI George Tenet at his confirmation hearing on May 6, 1997, "and we're never successful in litigating one."

Although no one has ever been prosecuted for disclosing the name of a CIA officer under cover, such disclosures happen from time to time.

In 1998, an article in The New Republic named the CIA station chief in Tel Aviv, to the dismay of Agency officials and congressional overseers. See "CIA Station Chief in Israel Unmasked," Secrecy and Government Bulletin, November 1998:

The text of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which prohibits the identification of "covert agents," is available here:


Public access to government information is increasingly becoming recognized and accepted as a norm, in principle if not in practice, around the world.

"More than 50 countries now have guaranteed their citizens the right to know what their government is up to, and more than half of these freedom of information laws passed in the last decade," according to a new survey prepared by information policy expert David Banisar and published by the advocacy network

See the global survey and related resources here:


An international coalition of non-governmental organizations known as The Access Initiative is working to promote global standards governing public "access to information, participation, and justice in environmental decision-making."

"The Access Initiative is motivated by a vision of the world in which all people -- regardless of citizenship, country of residence, wealth, or education -- have access to the information and decision-making processes necessary to participate meaningfully in the management of their natural environment."

For more information see:


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been battered and bruised by controversies surrounding several of its more questionable programs, including the defunct Terrorism Information Awareness.

But the Agency has not received the credit to which it is arguably entitled for conducting those programs in an unclassified form, in which they can be freely debated, criticized and attacked.

Now DARPA has published a complete descriptive summary of all of its (unclassified) programs, where they can be reviewed in some context. It is an intriguing collection, with numerous items of interest.

Describing its "Deception Detection" initiative to develop new "lie detector" methods, for example, DARPA renders an unusually harsh official judgment concerning the polygraph:

"Current screening techniques are flawed, enabling many deceivers to avoid detection and falsely accusing large numbers of innocent people. An effective method to assess intent will decrease both the missed detections and the false alarms." (Page 49).

See "Fact File: A Compendium of DARPA Programs," August 2003 (thanks to GP):


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

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