from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 91
September 22, 2005


The first of a series of congressional hearings on the unauthorized disclosure of classified information was held last week by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The closed hearing featured "a representative of the intelligence community" who discussed the consequences of such unauthorized disclosures.

Committee chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) said the committee will hold open hearings on the issue in the future. He indicated that no legislation on unauthorized disclosure is pending before the committee and that no decision has been made to introduce a bill, according to a September 14 news release. See:

Meanwhile, the Committee voted on party lines to reject a resolution requesting that the executive branch provide documents on the unauthorized disclosure of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.

When it comes to leaks, the Republican majority said, "the House must focus on the problem broadly rather than focusing solely on any specific case."

Democrats said "the Committee missed a critical opportunity to exercise appropriate and responsible oversight of this serious matter."

See the House Intelligence Committee report on the resolution here:


Official guidelines for deciding whether and how to permit public access to geospatial data -- such as maps and satellite imagery -- have recently been issued by the Federal Geographic Data Committee of the U.S. Geological Survey.

"In the United States many public and private organizations and individuals originate geospatial data and make them available to the public," the Guidelines note. "Because of this condition centralized control of information is not viable and decision making about the sensitivity and safeguarding of geospatial data will be decentralized."

To assist in such decentralized decision making, the Guidelines define general procedures for identifying sensitive information and weighing the risks and benefits of disclosure.

See "Guidelines for Providing Appropriate Access to Geospatial Data in Response to Security Concerns," Federal Geographic Data Committee, June 2005:


The 2005 U.S. Army Weapons System Handbook, a descriptive catalog of dozens of current and near-term weapons systems used by the U.S. Army, is now available on the Federation of American Scientists web site.

Previous editions of the Handbook were routinely made available on Army web sites. But along with many thousands of other unclassified documents, they were withdrawn from online public access a few years ago when the Army moved much of its web-based content behind a password-protected portal called Army Knowledge Online. A softcopy of the new edition was obtained by Secrecy News.

The unclassified Handbook is not sensitive, even by government standards. A hardcopy of the publication can still be purchased through the Government Printing Office. But the online version was a casualty of the Army's retreat from the web, until now.

See the 2005 U.S. Army Weapons System Handbook here:


The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing yesterday on ABLE DANGER, the Defense Department intelligence program that may or may not have identified Mohamed Atta and other September 11 hijackers a year or more before they struck.

The hearing ended inconclusively after the Pentagon refused to permit several witnesses to testify, citing classification concerns.

"That looks to me as if it may be obstruction of the committee's activities," said Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa).

"The Senate Intelligence Committee, as I understand it, has jurisdiction over this matter and is looking into it," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters in response.

"Second, the department, I'm told, offered a classified briefing because the subject matter was classified," Rumsfeld said. "And as I understand it, the Judiciary Committee preferred to have an open hearing on a classified matter, and therefore the department declined to participate in an open hearing on a classified matter."

The prepared testimony from the September 21 Judiciary Committee hearing is available here:

A September 1 Pentagon press briefing on ABLE DANGER is available here:


The House Committee on Government Reform has published a new edition of its popular "Citizen's Guide on Using the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974 to Request Government Records."

The Guide, first published in 1977, "is one of the most widely read congressional committee reports in history," the new edition says.

A copy of the updated Guide, House Report 109-226, September 20, 2005, is available here:


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

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