from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 15
February 9, 2004


An Air Force study of the Iranian government that was co-sponsored by the National Security Agency shows how U.S. intelligence agencies are making use of "social network analysis," a social science research tool, to inform their products.

In social network analysis the patterns of social interaction are subjected to rigorous examination and modeling, beginning with questions such as: Who knows whom? Which individuals and groups interact with one another and on what terms?

Social network analysis provides a useful way of structuring knowledge and framing further research. Ideally, it can also enhance an analyst's predictive capacity.

"Correctly interpreting a social network assists in predicting behavior and decision-making within the social network," wrote Capt. Robert S. Renfro, II and Richard F. Deckro of the Air Force Institute of Technology.

"The ability to understand and predict behavior of members in a social network allows the analyst to evaluate specific courses of action that will influence the members of a social network in a desirable manner."

In an illustrative example, the Air Force authors applied this method in order "to understand the relative influence of individuals in the Iranian government."

Of course, like other analytical techniques, social network analysis produces results that are no better than the data upon which it rests. It cannot compensate for intelligence that is fabricated, skewed or simply erroneous.

See "A Social Network Analysis of the Iranian Government" by Renfro and Deckro, based on research co-sponsored by the National Security Agency and the National Air Intelligence Center, November 2001, (1 MB PDF file) here:


President Bush issued an executive order to establish a Commission that will "examine" intelligence capabilities but not "investigate" how intelligence was used to support the decision to go to war against Iraq.

The new Commission will exclusively advise the President rather than foster public accountability.

"The Commission is established for the purpose of advising the President... in order to ensure the most effective counter-proliferation capabilities of the United States and response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the ongoing threat of terrorist activity," the President's executive order declared.

"In implementing this order, the Commission shall solely advise and assist the President," the order stated.

According to the terms of the executive order, the Commission's resulting report does not even have to be transmitted to Congress. (The Bush Administration's entirely inconsequential 2001 NSPD-5 review of U.S. intelligence was not provided to Congress either.)

Instead, "within 90 days of receiving the Commission's report [next year], the President will consult with the Congress concerning the Commission's report and recommendations, and will propose any appropriate legislative recommendations arising out of the findings of the Commission."

Public accountability is not mentioned in the new order.

See Executive Order 13328 of February 6, 2004 here:

The President's announcement of seven of the nine advisory commission members may be found here:


The Department of Justice did not violate the Freedom of Information Act by withholding large portions of a recent report on attorney workforce diversity, even though some of the portions withheld were factual in nature, the Department's Inspector General concluded in a new report.

After FOIA requesters asked for disclosure of the workforce diversity report, the Department posted a copy of the report on its web site with many passages blacked out. Those passages were "deliberative" in nature, the Department claimed, and therefore exempt from disclosure.

But due to a technical error by Justice, Russ Kick of was able to strip away the black marks and to post the full text of the document on his web site.

Upon examination of the full uncensored document, it was clear that many of the withheld portions were factual in nature, and not deliberative at all, prompting several protests to the Inspector General (IG).

But factual or not, the IG concluded that the Department had acted within its discretionary authority to withhold portions of the document.

It appears that "discretionary decisions [to withhold or release information] are not based on objective criteria but on political factors," said Michael J. Ravnitzky, who had requested the document under FOIA. "That itself is quite important and interesting."

Last month, observed Russ Kick, "the Justice Department released the entire report (with new bonus material) completely unredacted on their site! Isn't that a de facto admission that the redactions weren't necessary in the first place?"

See "A Review of the Response by the Department of Justice to Freedom of Information Act Requests for the Workplace Diversity Report," DoJ Inspector General, dated January 29 and published February 6:


"One of the most common uses of ... freedom of information laws [is] to ensure that schools, neighborhoods and local industries are safe and secure," noted Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) last week.

He reflected on a remarkable story that appeared last month in Parade Magazine, which he entered into the Congressional Record, describing how ordinary Americans use the Freedom of Information Act to protect themselves and their communities.

See his remarks on "The Importance of State and Federal Freedom of Information Laws" on the Senate floor, February 6:


President Eisenhower, Secrecy News noted last year (12/17/03), once sent "classified letters... to ten private citizens throughout the country giving them authority over various parts of the economy and total society in the event of the declaration of a national emergency."

Now the Conelrad Atomic Secrets web sites has tracked down those extraordinary letters from President Eisenhower and published most of them on its web site (one remains classified and unavailable).

See "This Letter Will Constitute Your Authority: The Eisenhower Ten" here:


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

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