from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 102
November 2, 2005


The Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy needs your support.

The FAS government secrecy web site was cited repeatedly yesterday on Cable News Network after the Senate went into secret session.

You can "learn more about the secret sessions we've been talking about," reporter Jacki Schechner told CNN's Wolf Blitzer two or three times throughout the afternoon, "through this website -- This is the Federation of American Scientists. On the left hand side of the page, there's a link for government secrecy....It'll tell you everything you need to know about secret sessions."

It's no secret. On a normal weekday (without prompting from CNN), more than 70,000 distinct visitors come to the FAS web site to view hundreds of thousands of archived documents. Over 11,000 individuals now subscribe to Secrecy News directly, and innumerable others receive it through secondary distribution.

But the future of this enterprise is not assured.

Several of the philanthropic foundations that have provided the principal support for the FAS Project on Government Secrecy for the past 15 years have reduced or withdrawn their funding of our work, or redirected their support for open government advocacy to other organizations.

If you derive value from our publications and our web site, and if you wish to do so in the future, please help to sustain our work.

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In an extraordinary procedural maneuver that exposed partisan tensions over intelligence oversight, Senate Democrats forced the Senate into a rare closed session for more than two hours until they won agreement from the majority to get a progress report on the status of the Senate Intelligence Committee's long-deferred review of pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

The Senate floor debate preceding and following the closed session featured unusually blunt statements on the quality of intelligence oversight of a sort not usually voiced in official proceedings.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Vice Chair of the Intelligence Committee, said the Bush White House had orchestrated a deliberate evasion of oversight responsibilities by the Republican majority.

"It is apparent to me that the White House has sent down the edict to the majority... that the Congress is not to carry out its oversight responsibilities in detention, interrogation, and rendition matters, ... as it would bring uncomfortable attention to the legal decisions and opinions coming from the White House and the Justice Department in the operation of various programs," Sen. Rockefeller said.

"We have agreed to do what we already agreed to do," replied Sen. Pat Roberts, the Intelligence Committee Chair, "that is, to complete as best we can phase II of the Intelligence Committee's review of prewar intelligence in reference to Iraq."

A task force of six Senators will report by November 14 on the anticipated completion date of the Intelligence Committee review.

See the full text of the November 1 Senate floor debate before and after the historic closed session here:

"Since 1929, the Senate has held 53 secret sessions, generally for reasons of national security," according to a 2004 report on the subject by the Congressional Research Service, whose availability on the FAS web site was noted repeatedly on CNN during the course of the secret Senate session.

See "Secret Sessions of Congress: A Brief Historical Overview," updated October 21, 2004:


The very words by which official secrecy policy is formulated and carried out are often obscure to the outsider. They embody a latent knowledge of statute and regulation, policy and practice that cannot be inferred from the words themselves.

An excellent new publication helps "the outsider," i.e. the ordinary citizen of the United States, to comprehend the vocabulary of government information policy, and to discover its genealogical roots in official documents.

From "access" and "accountability" to "Yankee White" and "Xn," author Susan Maret, an adjunct professor of library science at the University of Denver, provides a concise definition of terms as well as links to official sources.

Dr. Maret's Lexicon is published for the first time on the FAS web site.

See "On Their Own Terms: A Lexicon with an Emphasis on Information-Related Terms Produced by the U.S. Federal Government" by Susan Maret, Ph.D., November 2005:


Another notable contribution to the understanding of official government language is a newly updated glossary of Air Force terminology.

"Airmen should be able to clearly articulate their thoughts, ideas, and commands to each other by using a common operational language," according to the glossary, which is published by the U.S. Air Force.

Roger that.

See "Air Force Glossary," Air Force Doctrine Document 1-2, 6 September 2005:


A comprehensive military textbook on terrorism has just been reissued by the U.S. Army.

Based on open sources, the 280 page volume (with four large supplements), provides a synthetic account of the nature and history of terrorism, its operational characteristics, the threat it poses to U.S. military forces, and the future of terrorism.

The publication was prepared "under the direction of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence-Threats."

A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "A Military Guide to Terrorism in the Twenty-First Century," version 3.0, 15 August 2005:


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

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