from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 101
November 14, 2003


As bad as the threat of biological weapons may seem-- it's actually worse.

That is the upshot of a summary report prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency based on a workshop with non-governmental scientists held last January.

"Growing understanding of the complex biochemical pathways that underlie life processes has the potential to enable a class of new, more virulent biological agents engineered to attack distinct biochemical pathways and elicit specific effects...," the document stated.

A copy of the two page CIA report was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "The Darker Bioweapons Future," Office of Transnational Issues, Directorate of Intelligence, November 3, 2003:

No less interesting that the document itself is the tangled process that produced it.

The CIA, in a becoming act of humility, reached out to biological scientists early this year for insight and advice. It then squandered much of the good will it had engendered by informing the scientists that the conclusions of their open meeting would be classified. But then, facing criticism, the Agency reversed itself, belatedly yielding the present document. (Secrecy News, 4/02/03)

"CIA proactively reached out to the scientific community, but instead of getting credit for it, it got slammed," according to one non-governmental participant who said critics were mistaken to believe CIA was acting in bad faith.

"I hope that the scientific and security communities have both learned something from this experience and will continue to make the effort to work together," he said today. "We'll have to do a lot more of it in the future."

For background on the earlier dispute see "CIA openness report to be classified?" by Peg Brickley, The Scientist, April 7, 2003:


Congress has yielded to pressure from the Department of Energy to relax the open meeting requirements of the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act.

After closed door meetings of the DOE advisory committee on the National Ignition Facility were successfully challenged by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Tri-Valley Cares, DOE decided the rules needed to be changed.

Congress acquiesced in language inserted into the 2004 Defense Authorization Act.

The details and background of the change were first reported by Ian Hoffman in "DOE May Sidestep Open Government Law," Oakland Tribune, November 13:


A November 10 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency found that Iran has been secretly pursuing proscribed nuclear technologies for the past 18 years, in violation of its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments.

A copy of the explosive new report, which has not been formally released to the public, was obtained and posted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (in a large PDF file) here:


The occasional practice of holding closed door sessions of Congress is surveyed in "Secret Sessions of Congress: A Brief Historical Overview" by Mildred Amer, Congressional Research Service, updated August 5, 2003:


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

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