from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2004, Issue No. 74
August 5, 2004


Some of the most important intelligence reforms proposed by the 9-11 Commission, including the creation of a Director of National Intelligence (DNI), might have been adopted over a decade ago if not for the opposition of the Secretary of Defense at the time, Dick Cheney.

In a March 1992 letter to Congress, Secretary Cheney defended the status quo and objected to proposed intelligence reform legislation, particularly the DNI position.

"The roles of the Secretary of Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence have evolved in a fashion that meets national, departmental and tactical intelligence needs," Cheney wrote.

The intelligence reform proposals "would seriously impair the effectiveness of this arrangement by assigning inappropriate authority to the proposed Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who would become the director and manager of internal DoD activities that in the interest of efficiency and effectiveness must remain under the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary of Defense," he wrote.

A companion letter from the DoD General Counsel elaborated on Secretary Cheney's objections, complaining that the intelligence reform proposal would "give the DNI far more extensive authority and responsibility for program and budget matters than is now exercised by the DCI," which is indeed the whole point.

Secretary Cheney successfully torpedoed the initiative with his warning that "I would recommend that the President veto [the measure] if [it] were presented to him in its current form."

In fairness, it was not obvious, then or now, that the DNI concept is the best or only solution to what ails U.S. intelligence. And it would be surprising if a Secretary of Defense did anything other than protect his institutional turf.

But Cheney's unyielding opposition stifled the first initiative for post-Cold War intelligence reform. As a result, we now face many of the same problems, and the same proposed solutions, more than a decade later.

See Secretary Cheney's March 17, 1992 letter to House Armed Services Committee chairman Les Aspin here:

Thanks to Robert Steele of Open Source Solution (, which advocates establishment of an independent open source intelligence agency.


New barriers to public access to government information are now rising with extraordinary frequency.

While any one of them is probably of interest to only a limited community of concern, collectively they represent an ongoing mutation of American political culture in favor of secret rule by bureaucracy.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced yesterday that "certain security information formerly included in the Reactor Oversight Process will no longer be publicly available, and will no longer be updated on the agency's web site." See:

New controls may be imposed starting October 1 on space surveillance data (orbital elements) that are currently made available on the NASA web site. See this notice:

And at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Communications Commission yesterday agreed to restrict public access to reports of telecommunications disruptions, CQ Homeland Security reported today.

DHS argued that information about communications outages could provide -- what else? -- "a roadmap for terrorists."

"The commission concluded that the information needs to be not routinely available for public inspection, and the commission is treating all outage reports filed as being presumptively confidential under the Freedom of Information Act," FCC official Kent Nilsson told CQ Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, "Nearly 600 times in recent years, a judicial committee acting in private has stripped information from reports intended to alert the public to conflicts of interest involving federal judges," the Washington Post reported today, citing a new Government Accountability Office report:


In the late 1970s, activist and freelance writer Howard Morland decided to investigate "the secret of the H-Bomb" and wrote an article about his findings in The Progressive magazine. In a landmark case, the government moved to block publication of his article, claiming that it contained classified information. It was eventually published anyway.

Morland's quest was not universally admired, even outside of government. FAS opposed the frontal challenge to the Atomic Energy Act, concerned that it would set an adverse precedent, which it did.

But the case also raised fundamental issues about the boundaries of government control of information, the nature of nuclear secrecy, and the ability of individual citizens to challenge authority.

Morland recalled his experience in a March 2004 symposium at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University marking the 25th anniversary of the The Progressive case. See the text of his lecture, abundantly illustrated, here:


While it's true that Dutch intelligence (AIVD) routinely publishes its budget and US intelligence so far does not, as noted in Secrecy News yesterday, that must be the only area where the Netherlands surpasses the US in openness, journalist Ton Biesemaat advised.

"I can assure you that the level of openness in the USA is far greater then in The Netherlands. For example, in the States archives are more accessible than over here in the Netherlands. Every Cold War archive is closed for too-eager journalists even if you are interested in things which occurred 40 or 50 years ago. Not always are things so nice as you see them in such a controlled publication as the annual report of the AIVD. So I regret to say that the American degree of public access to archives is still denied to another democratic country, the Kingdom of The Netherlands," wrote Mr. Biesemaat.


The cost of the aluminum tubes that were controversially acquired by Iraq was deleted by CIA classification reviewers from one page of the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report on pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

But the very same information was disclosed on another page.

Thus, on page 96, it is noted that "Iraqi agents agreed to pay up to [deleted] for each 7075-T6 aluminum tube. Their willingness to pay such costs suggests the tubes are intended for a special project of national interest."

Then, on page 115, the report states: "Iraqi agents agreed to pay up to U.S. $17.50 each for the 7075-T6 aluminum tube. Their willingness to pay such costs suggests the tubes are intended for a special project of national interest."

It hardly needs to be pointed out that the Iraqis know what they agreed to pay, the tube vendors know what they agreed to pay, and those who monitor such transactions at the IAEA and elsewhere know what they agreed to pay.

So the flawed at attempt at classifying the information serves no purpose except, optimistically, to motivate efforts towards classification reform.

Thanks to political scientist Christopher L. Ball of Iowa State University who spotted the inconsistency.

The two pages from the Senate report, along with the title page, are posted here:

The full report may be found here:


The next issue of Secrecy News will appear the week of August 23.


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

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, send an email message to with "subscribe" (without quotes) in the body of the message.

To UNSUBSCRIBE, send a blank email message to

OR email your request to

Secrecy News is archived at:

Secrecy News has an RSS feed at: