from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 12
February 2, 2005


The Public Interest Declassification Board came another step closer to becoming a reality last month as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi named former Congressman David Skaggs (D-CO) to become a member of the Board.

The Board, whose function is to advise the President on declassification policies and priorities, is the only surviving vestige of a comprehensive classification reform program proposed by the late Senator Daniel P. Moynihan and his 1997 Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy.

During his tenure in Congress, Mr. Skaggs distinguished himself as the first person to ask certain basic questions about the government secrecy system who was also in a position to demand answers.

In response to legislation that Skaggs introduced, the government produced the first official estimates of the costs and size of the secrecy system in 1994. (See "32,400 Workers Stockpiling U.S. Secrets; Cold War or Not, Keeping Data on Ice Is Said to Cost $16 Billion a Year" by R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, May 15, 1994).

Mr. Skaggs is the sixth person to be named to what will be a nine-member Board. In September 2004, President Bush named L. Britt Snider, former CIA Inspector General; Martin Faga, former director of the National Reconnaissance Office; Steven Garfinkel, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office; Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, former General Counsel of the National Security Agency; and Richard N. Smith, historian.

Although the Board has no independent authority to speak of, all of the individual members named thus far know the difference between legitimate classification and its evil twin.

Secrecy News would wager a small amount of money that all of the distinguished Board members would dismiss out of hand, for example, the CIA claim that 50 year old budget figures must remain classified today, or any number of other absurd classification claims that disfigure American government.

Since all of them have better things to do than to rubber stamp a dysfunctional classification system, one waits with interest to see what the new Board might actually accomplish.

Mr. Skagg's appointment to the Public Interest Declassification Board was noted in the Congressional Record on January 20. See:


The Anti-Defamation League yesterday called upon the Central Intelligence Agency to release records it is withholding relating to Nazi war crimes. See:

The ADL, a Jewish organization devoted to combating anti-semitism, acted in response to a story in the New York Times on Sunday which revealed that the Agency has refused to divulge certain records, in spite of a 1998 law which mandated their disclosure.

See "CIA Said to Rebuff Congress on Nazi Files," by Douglas Jehl, New York Times, January 30, 2005:

The dispute is an important test for CIA secret-keepers. If they can withhold highly-charged records of Nazi war crimes in defiance of a statutory obligation to disclose, then there is nothing that can ever force them to release more mundane documents. They will be a law unto themselves.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on February 15 on "CIA Document Disclosure Under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act."


Newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include these:

"Navy DD(X) and LCS Ship Acquisition Programs: Oversight Issues and Options for Congress," updated January 25, 2005:

"Pakistan-U.S. Relations," updated January 28, 2005:

"Pakistan's Nuclear Proliferation Activities and the Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission: U.S. Policy Constraints and Options," re-issued in a corrected version (same date), January 25, 2005:

Speaking of corrections, Secrecy News mistakenly stated yesterday that the Department of Energy study detailing the history of U.S. plutonium production was no longer available through the DOE web site. But it is still there. (Thanks to S.)


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: