from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 97
October 14, 2005


The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) took the unusual step on October 11 of releasing the text of a letter that it said was written by al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who fights under the al Qaeda banner in Iraq.

"The United States Government has the highest confidence in the letter's authenticity," according to a news release from the DNI.

But despite the assurances of US Intelligence, internal textual evidence appears to refute the DNI's description of the letter.

In particular, as noted by Fred Kaplan in Slate today, the letter writer states toward the end: "By God, if by chance you're going to Fallujah, send greetings to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." See:

This would appear to be conclusive evidence that the DNI was mistaken and that the letter was written to someone other than Zarqawi.


Yesterday, the DNI and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency announced the establishment of a new National Clandestine Service.

The new Service should be referred to as "NaCl," the chemical symbol for sodium chloride, proposes reader MJR, since "its products should be taken with a grain of salt."


Government agencies imposed 106 new secrecy orders on inventions during fiscal year 2005, barring their disclosure on national security grounds, and rescinded 76 others, thereby bringing the total of secrecy orders in effect to 4,915, a slight increase from the 4,885 in effect a year ago.

The Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 authorizes and requires the government to impose such secrecy orders on patent applications whose disclosure "might... be detrimental to the national security."

In a constitutional anomaly, this requirement can be imposed even when the application is for an invention generated by a private individual without government sponsorship or support.

The latest statistics on invention secrecy, obtained by Secrecy News from the US Patent and Trademark Office, may be found here:


Egregious technological and procedural weaknesses in security that enabled former naval officer John Walker to engage in espionage for many years without detection are lucidly analyzed in a recent Master's Thesis.

"CWO John Walker led one of the most devastating spy rings ever unmasked in the US. Along with his brother, son, and friend, he compromised US Navy cryptographic systems and classified information from 1967 to 1985.

"This research focuses on just one of the systems compromised by John Walker himself: the Fleet Broadcasting System (FBS) during the period 1967-1974, which was used to transmit all US Navy operational orders to ships at sea.

"Why was the communications security (COMSEC) system so completely defenseless against one rogue sailor, acting alone? The evidence shows that FBS was designed in such a way that it was effectively impossible to detect or prevent rogue insiders from compromising the system.

"Personnel investigations were cursory, frequently delayed, and based more on hunches than hard scientific criteria. Far too many people had access to the keys and sensitive materials, and the auditing methods were incapable, even in theory, of detecting illicit copying of classified materials. Responsibility for the security of the system was distributed between many different organizations, allowing numerous security gaps to develop.

"This has immediate implications for the design of future classified communications systems."

See "An Analysis of the Systemic Security Weaknesses of the U.S. Navy Fleet Broadcasting System, 1967-1974, as Exploited by CWO John Walker" by Maj. Laura J. Heath, Master's Thesis, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, June 2005:


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

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