from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 99
October 21, 2005


In a progress report on the status of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, the former Commissioners rated Congress "unsatisfactory" for failing to declassify the intelligence budget total.

The final report of the bipartisan Commission last year had singled out budget declassification as best place to begin combating the excessive secrecy that has degraded the performance of U.S. intelligence agencies (at page 416).

But not even the national catastrophe of September 11 proved sufficient to dislodge the official prejudice in favor of unfettered secrecy.

Ironically, the intelligence community has probably suffered more than anyone from budget secrecy, as significant cuts to classified intelligence spending were imposed in the 1990s without public awareness or even the possibility of debate.

("In the 1990s, we suffered deep cuts in intelligence funding," DCIA Goss recalled on June 29, 2005.)

The proponents of budget secrecy thus bear a heavy burden of responsibility for the steadily eroding quality of U.S. intelligence.

Last year, the full Senate voted in favor of intelligence budget disclosure, but the measure was opposed by the Bush White House and rejected by most House Republicans. It was abandoned in a House-Senate conference.

Now, the 9/11 Commission members urge in their new report, "Congress should pass a separate appropriations act for intelligence, making public the overall amounts being appropriated from national intelligence and being assigned to the various components of the intelligence community."

See "Report on the Status of 9/11 Commission Recommendations" from the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, October 20:

A new critique of the Silberman-Robb Commission on WMD Intelligence written by David Isenberg and published by the British American Security Information Council is available here:


"At a time when the U.S. intelligence community is under intense scrutiny in the aftermath of 9/11 and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, we only increase public skepticism about our government by denying the public information," said Lee H. Hamilton, the distinguished former Congressman and vice chair of the 9/11 Commission.

Mr. Hamilton was the keynote speaker this week at a remarkable symposium sponsored by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Executive Order 12958 on national security classification.

Under other circumstances, many of Mr. Hamilton's remarks would be considered truisms, e.g. "Information must be made available -- to the maximum extent possible -- to the American people." But today, such sentiments practically amount to a radical critique of government policy.

See the text of his presentation here:

The superb ISOO symposium offered genuinely diverse and strongly argued perspectives, unresolved disagreements, and even a few laughs.

For a partial account of one of the symposium panels, see "Official: Secrecy decisions 'subjective'," by Shaun Waterman, UPI, October 18:


The United States may offer to sell Pakistan "up to 55 new and 25 used F-16" fighter aircraft, a newly updated Congressional Research Service study says, citing unspecified "reports."

See "Pakistan-U.S. Relations, Congressional Research Service, updated October 13, 2005:


A new Department of Defense Instruction defines "DoD policy and procedures concerning DoD contractor personnel authorized to accompany the U.S. Armed Forces."

Contractors deployed alongside U.S. military forces in Iraq and elsewhere have assumed increasing responsibilities for military tasks up to and including prisoner interrogation, but in doing so they have also created legal, administrative and procedural problems.

The new DoD Instruction attempts to bring some order to what has occasionally been a chaotic situation and addresses, for example, the conditions under which contractors may be armed.

The issuance of the Instruction earlier this month was first reported by See DoD Instruction 3020.41, "Contractor Personnel Authorized to Accompany the U.S. Armed Forces," October 3, 2005:


The letter purportedly written from Al Qaeda's Ayman al Zawahiri to Abu Musab al Zarqawi and released October 11 by the Director of National Intelligence has met with continuing skepticism and has now entered the domain of spoofery.

The anomalous fact that the supposed letter to Zarqawi advises the recipient, if in Fallujah, to "send greetings to Abu Musab Al Zarqawi," noted last week in Secrecy News, was elaborated in a Reuters story by David Morgan.

See "US Cannot Explain Suspicious Zawahri Letter Passage," October 14:

The story was picked up appreciatively by Harry Shearer in his satirical broadcast "Le Show" on October 16. An audio clip can be found here (thanks to A):

Taking it to the next level, T.A. Frank wrote his own letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi in the The New Republic:

"Please remember that here in Waziristan, out East, where you train, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters-- partly because their roots connect them, partly because a recent volley of daisy-cutters has reduced them to charred stumps."

U.S. intelligence analysts are not completely oblivious to the peculiarities of the proffered Zawahiri letter.

A national security reporter who was briefed by senior intelligence officials told Secrecy News:

"One hypothesis from the analysts is that the last line--about giving regards to Zarqawi if in Fallujah--was a note to one of the couriers who would have carried or transmitted the letter-- and not, therefore, part of the letter addressed to Zarqawi. The senior official said that he has 'rarely been more confident' that the letter was indeed authored by Zawahiri, based on intelligence from 'multiple' sources."


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

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