from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 95
October 6, 2005


Defying a White House veto threat, a large majority of the United States Senate voted in favor of an amendment offered by Sen. John McCain that would establish uniform standards for the interrogation of detainees held by the Department of Defense and prohibit "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of prisoners in U.S. custody.

In spite of White House opposition, the amendment won the support of 90 Senators. It was also endorsed in letters from 29 former high-ranking military leaders and former Secretary of State Colin Powell that were entered into the congressional record.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), one of the nine Senators who opposed the measure, explained his position: "I think there is a place in our operations against individuals involved in the war on terrorism where we deal with them as they deal with us."

See the October 5 Senate floor debate here:


The newly released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the 2006 intelligence authorization act presents several initiatives that would alter the landscape of both foreign and domestic intelligence collection. See Senate Report 109-142:

The Committee noted in passing that "Improper classification of information -- the disclosure of which would not harm national security -- prevents the public from considering national issues in light of all publicly available facts." It did not provide any examples of such information. The Committee further "strongly recommend[ed]" that the Director of National Intelligence "examine the guidelines and rules for classification, and, as necessary, propose standards for the modernization and simplification of the classification system."

Dissenting views appended to the report exposed some of the tensions that have divided the Committee.

Committee Democrats harshly criticized the failure to complete an investigation of pre-war intelligence on Iraq. "The Committee's delinquency in addressing an issue that it unanimously voted to address over a year and a half ago has diminished the Committee's credibility as an effective overseer of the Intelligence Community," they wrote.

They also noted the Committee's failure to examine the handling of detainees. "Despite repeated attempts to initiate a detailed review of fundamental legal and operational questions surrounding the detention, interrogation and rendition of individuals held in U.S. custody, the Committee majority has refused to conduct such an investigation."


The CIA this month will establish a new unit devoted to analysis of "open source" intelligence, referring to unclassified information that is openly and legally collected, Time magazine reported on August 15.

But at the CIA, even open source material is often treated as secret.

Last week, the CIA denied a request for a copy of a compilation of published statements made by Osama bin Laden between 1994 and 2004 on grounds that release of the material would compromise "intelligence sources and methods" (FOIA exemption b(3)) and that the material was obtained on a privileged basis (exemption b(4)). See:

But as it happens, the same material will be published next month under the title "Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden" edited by Bruce Lawrence and published by Verso.

"Over the last ten years, bin Laden has issued a series of carefully tailored public statements, from interviews with Western and Arabic journalists to faxes and video recordings. These texts supply evidence crucial to an understanding of the bizarre mix of Quranic scholarship, CIA training, punctual interventions in Gulf politics and messianic anti-imperialism that has formed the programmatic core of Al Qaeda," according to the publisher's announcement.

"In bringing together the various statements issued under bin Laden's name since 1994, this volume forms part of a growing discourse that seeks to demythologize the terrorist network. Newly translated from the Arabic, annotated with a critical introduction by Islamic scholar Bruce Lawrence, this collection places the statements in their religious, historical and political context."

Meanwhile, "In a move mirroring the recruitment process at the Central Intelligence Agency," an Al Qaeda website is openly soliciting applicants who can serve as researchers and linguists, according to a report in the London-based Al Sharq al Awsat. See "Al Qaeda Website Openly Hiring New Recruits" by Mohammed Al Shafey, October 3:

Open Source Solutions, a proponent of open source intelligence, reported that Dr. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, had rejected an invitation from the Director of National Intelligence to serve as the first Director of the new Open Source Agency.


Reports of the Congressional Research Service recently obtained by Secrecy News include the following:

"The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan and Enhanced Base Security Since 9/11," October 3, 2005:

"Strategic Mobility Innovation: Options and Oversight Issues," April 29, 2005:


The successful enactment of new limitations on the use of the "sensitive security information" control marking stems from an initiative by Rep. Martin Olav Sabo (D-MN), who raised the issue in the House last spring.

See this May 10 news release on the Sabo amendment which led to the conference agreement to tighten controls on SSI in the 2006 Homeland Security Appropriations bill (SN, 10/03/05):


For many foreign scientists and engineers, new post-9/11 security controls have created "the perception -- and too often the reality -- that the United States was becoming an unwelcoming and increasingly hostile destination," according to a new White Paper from the Commission on Scientific Communication and National Security.

"The White Paper explains the importance to the United States scientific and technical base -- and to U.S. national security and economic vitality -- of ensuring that foreign students, scholars, researchers, and technical professionals are able to visit the United States. It outlines problems that have been experienced with visa approval and border security processes as a result of post-9/11 reforms and makes a number of recommendations for improvement." See:


The October issue of Physics Today is devoted to the achievements of the late physicist Hans Bethe.

In one article, Richard Garwin and Kurt Gottfried recall Bethe as a scientist-activist.

"Hans Bethe spent a lifetime enhancing the security of his adopted homeland--initially designing its nuclear bombs, but ultimately warning presidents and the public to guard against the hazards of such bombs."

See "Hans in War and Peace" by Richard L. Garwin and Kurt Gottfried, Physics Today, October 2005:


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

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