from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 58
June 22, 2004


Human intelligence (HUMINT) collection at the Central Intelligence Agency remains completely inadequate and as a result the Agency is heading "over a proverbial cliff," the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) warned in a volatile new report.

"After years of trying to convince, suggest, urge, entice, cajole, and pressure CIA to make wide-reaching changes to the way it conducts its HUMINT mission..., CIA, in the Committee's view, continues down a road leading over a proverbial cliff," the Committee said in its report on the 2005 intelligence authorization act.

"The damage to the HUMINT mission through its misallocation and redirection of resources, poor prioritization of objectives, micromanagement of field operations, and a continued political aversion to operational risk is, in the Committee's judgment, significant and could likely be long-lasting."

"Immediate and far-reaching changes can still reverse some of the worst factors eroding its capabilities, however. If the CIA continues to ignore the experience of many of its best, brightest, and most experienced officers, and continues to equate criticism from within and without -- especially from its oversight committees -- as commentary unworthy even of consideration, no matter how constructive, informed, and well-meaning that criticism may be, they do so at their peril."

The substance of the Committee's critique of CIA HUMINT and its proposed reforms were not further specified in the unclassified report.

But proposals for more "nimble" HUMINT operations often entail diminished oversight, accountability and respect for norms of moral behavior.

The authorization report notes that resources for intelligence have "increased dramatically" since September 11, 2001, and the Committee authorizes a "substantial enhancement" in 2005 for intelligence in the global war on terrorism.

Also noteworthy is what is not in the bill. According to news reports, the Committee had been considering provisions to expand the scope of the USA Patriot Act and the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. An exceptionally diverse group of organizations coordinated by the ACLU wrote to the Committee arguing against adoption of the provisions and they were in fact not adopted.

Meanwhile, the Committee itself has fractured along partisan lines. The Republican majority rejected all Democratic amendments because, it said, they "added nothing helpful to the bill." And the Democratic minority then voted against the Committee markup.

"For the first time in at least ten years there were dissenting votes as the bill was reported from Committee," the report notes. "And not just a few."

See the new HPSCI report on intelligence authorization for 2005, June 21, here:


The sealing of court records in litigation, which has long been a subject of controversy, is critically examined in a recent law review article that argues for reform of judicial secrecy policy.

"Despite the best arguments of those who justify the customary granting of protective orders on the grounds of economic efficiency and the limited capacities of the dockets, it has become apparent that blindly sealing court records without regard to legitimate public interests has undesirable and sometimes tragic consequences. When courts act, as they habitually do, as active agents in the suppression of information that could otherwise save lives, the integrity of the judicial system must be called into question."

See "The Pervasive Problem of Court-Sanctioned Secrecy and the Exigency of National Reform" by David S. Sanson, Duke Law Journal, November 2003, newly available online here:


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