from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 16
February 11, 2005


Although intelligence budget totals for 1997 and 1998 have been declassified, a federal court ruled this week that budget figures from thirty to fifty years earlier should not be disclosed because they "relate to intelligence sources and methods."

In a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the Federation of American Scientists had sought the release of aggregate and individual intelligence agency budgets from 1947 to 1970.

Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of the D.C. District Court accepted the CIA's argument that disclosure of such historical budget figures would compromise the "intelligence method" of transferring funds to the CIA. The CIA budget is not directly appropriated but is concealed within various budget line items in the Defense Department budget.

In the face of CIA denials, FAS showed that the 1963 CIA budget -- $550 million -- was already in the public domain, and the court agreed that the CIA was not entitled to withhold the budget for this one year.

But "the fact that the CIA disclosed its intelligence budget for 1963 does not preclude it from claiming ... protection for the rest of the information the plaintiff seeks," Judge Urbina wrote.

As a practical matter, CIA's argument for withholding seems untenable. It appears impossible, for example, to take the now-public 1963 CIA budget figure and use it to infer or deduce how funds were transferred that year through multiple budget line items to the Agency.

But that's just our opinion, the court said, and it doesn't count.

"The fact that the plaintiff subjectively believes that releasing the requested budget information would not compromise sources and methods of intelligence is of no moment," Judge Urbina wrote. "The DCI is statutorily entrusted with making that decision, not the plaintiff."

See Judge Urbina's February 9 ruling (with a February 10 technical amendment) here:

It is a measure of the decline of American democracy in our time that the United States no longer sets the world standard for government accountability on this matter.

Numerous other countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands, routinely publish their current intelligence spending levels. But here at home the CIA and the Justice Department Office of Information and Privacy deploy teams of attorneys to shield pre-Sputnik intelligence budgets from public knowledge.

"We overclassify very badly," said Porter Goss, now the Director of Central Intelligence, in testimony before the 9-11 Commission in May 2003.


The Public Interest Declassification Board, an advisory body created in the FY 2001 Intelligence Authorization Act to help set declassification priorities and mediate conflicts, suffered the ignominy of not having its members named for four years.

But now that six of its nine members have been named (SN, 02/02/05), the Board faces the further insult of being denied the budget it needs to commence its work.

No money was appropriated for the Board in the current fiscal year, and no money has been requested for the Board in the next fiscal year. That adds up to no money at all.

Even if the members were to forego the compensation to which they are entitled by statute, the Board requires a budget for various other purposes. It must pay for security clearance review for those members who do not hold active clearances, travel costs for members who reside outside of Washington, staff costs, and so on.

Since the Bush Administration made the effort last year to identify and appoint five members to the Board, it is hard to imagine that the Administration is now seeking to sabotage the Board by withholding funds. But no one approached by Secrecy News was able to explain how the Board could function without a budget.

The legislation that established the Public Interest Declassification Board, as amended in 2004, may be found here:


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today proposed a new rule that elaborates controls on unclassified "Safeguards Information" (SGI) that is deemed too sensitive for public release.

SGI is yet another entrant in the long and growing list of government controls on unclassified information (SBU, FOUO, LOU, SSI, etc.).

"An individual's access to SGI requires both a valid 'need to know' such information and authorization based on an appropriate background investigation," according to the NRC.

In other words, SGI replicates in the unclassified world two of the defining characteristics of the classification system -- clearance and need-to-know. This is a problem.

Much of the information designated as SGI is undoubtedly withheld from disclosure for good reason. But the SGI system and other controls on unclassified information lack the definitional rigor of the classification system, as well as the orderly procedures for removing controls (declassification), and the oversight and appeal procedures for challenging excesses.

The expanding patchwork of controls on unclassified information actually makes the classification system look good by comparison.

See the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's proposed rule on Safeguards Information from the February 11 Federal Register here:


Following are some notable Defense Department directives published in the last few months.

"Data Sharing in a Net-Centric Department of Defense," DoD Directive 8320.2, 2 December 2004:

"Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center," DoD Directive 6420.1, 9 October 2004:

"DoD Electromagnetic Environmental Effects (E3) Program," DoD Directive 3222.3, September 7, 2004:

"Designating and Naming Military Aerospace Vehicles," DoD Directive 4120.15E, 29 November 2004:


Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday falls on February 12, is the only American President to have held a patent on an invention of his own design.

"Be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, of Springfield, in the county of Sangamon, in the State of Illinois, have invented a new and improved manner of combining adjustable buoyant air chambers with a steam boat or other vessel for the purpose of enabling their draught of water to be readily lessened to enable them to pass over bars, or through shallow water, without discharging their cargoes," Lincoln wrote in his patent application.

On May 22, 1849, Lincoln received Patent No. 6469 for his "adjustable buoyant air chamber" invention.

Although the Patent and Trademark Office ( maintains a very useful patent search engine, it does not include Lincoln's patent application, portions of which have been lost.

Lincoln's uniqueness as a presidential patent holder was noted by William Lee Miller in his valuable book "Lincoln's Virtues." The most extended published account of the device itself seems to be "Lincoln's Connections with the Illinois and Michigan Canal, His Return From Congress in '48 and His Invention" by Wayne C. Temple.

Much of the same information can also be found here:


As may have been previously mentioned, the Congressional Research Service does not make its publications directly available to the public. The following new or newly updated CRS reports were obtained by Secrecy News.

"Al Qaeda: Statements and Evolving Ideology," February 4, 2005:

"Nuclear Power Plants: Vulnerability to Terrorist Attack," updated February 4, 2005:

"Public Relations and Propaganda: Restrictions on Executive Agency Activities," updated February 8, 2005:

"Military Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD): Assessing Future Needs," updated January 24, 2005:

"The Economics of the Federal Budget Deficit," updated January 28, 2005:


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: