from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 6
January 17, 2006


The Department of Defense has issued an updated directive governing the conduct of Special Access Programs, or SAPs.

SAPs are highly classified programs involving heightened security measures -- such as access control lists, special non-disclosure agreements, polygraph tests, etc. -- that go beyond those of ordinary ("collateral") programs that involve classified information.

Within the Department of Defense, there are Acquisition SAPs for classified military procurement, Intelligence SAPs dealing with particularly sensitive intelligence collection activities, and Operations and Support SAPs that cover sensitive military operations.

SAPs range in sensitivity from "acknowledged SAPs," the existence of which may be publicly admitted, to "unacknowledged SAPs," whose very existence is classified, to "waived SAPs," a subset of unacknowledged SAPs for which normal congressional reporting requirements are limited to eight senior members of Congress.

Almost by definition, assigning SAP status to a program impedes independent and congressional oversight. In the wake of the collapse of several large DoD acquisition SAPs in the early 1990s, internal DoD controls on SAPs were increased.

It is possible that the recently disclosed NSA domestic surveillance operation was a "waived SAP," but this has not been confirmed.

See DoD Directive 5205.07, "Special Access Program (SAP) Policy," January 5, 2006:

In 2001, Congress prohibited the creation of new SAPs except where 30 day prior notice was given to the congressional defense committees.

But in an early display of its controversial use of presidential signing statements to undercut legislative action, the Bush White House issued a statement reserving the right to defy this notification requirement (Secrecy News, 01/11/02):

Meanwhile, Pentagon program managers have devised a way to impose "SAP-like" security measures without even the limited oversight involved in an actual SAP, observed Washington Post blogger William Arkin last week.

ACCMs, or "Alternative or Compensatory Control Measures," are quasi-SAPs that are "easier to establish [than SAPs] and the program doesn't have to be reported to Congress!" wrote Arkin, who notes that hundreds of ACCMs have been initiated since 9/11.

See "More Compartmented Programs," Early Warning, January 13, 2006:


Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) asked the Department of Labor last week to reverse the policy of withholding reports of mine safety inspections from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

"This unwarranted secrecy may protect the mining industry from embarrassing disclosures, but it undermines accountability and mine safety," Rep. Waxman wrote.

"Prior to 2004, [the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)] publicly disclosed both the results of mine safety inspections and the reports and notes filed by inspectors that provided the documentation of any violations found," he recalled.

"The inspectors' reports and notes were particularly important. Not only were they used by mine safety organizations, mine workers, and the public to identify dangerous mines and practices, they were also useful to mine operators implementing needed improvements in mine safety."

"In 2004, MSHA reversed its interpretation of the Freedom of Information Act, deciding that the inspectors' reports and notes did not need to be disclosed under FOIA."

"It would be impossible to draw a direct connection between the new FOIA policy and the recent fatal disaster at the Sago mine. But the agency's secrecy policy certainly limited public disclosure about the mine's violations."

See "Labor Department Policy Suppressing Mine Inspection Reports Impedes Reform," January 11:


"Since the 1950s, there has been sporadic concern about the threat of clandestine nuclear attack" -- involving nuclear weapons delivered by means other than missile or aircraft -- "but little has been done," the Defense Science Board observed in a June 2004 study on the topic.

A series of National Intelligence Estimates dating back to 1951 on the subject of clandestine WMD attacks against the U.S. has been compiled from declassified CIA records along with the 2004 DSB report and may be found here (thanks to Allen Thomson):


The 9/11 Commission could hardly have delivered a more forceful presentation to a more receptive public audience than it did in its best-selling 2004 report.

Yet 17 of its 41 recommendations have been largely or completely ignored by the government. Why?

The reasons "fall into six categories," according to an assessment in the latest National Journal: "a Congress resistant to institutional change; a bureaucracy that bucks new ideas; lack of money; lack of leadership; special interests that have the ear of Congress or the White House; and, finally, an inability to accurately see how the United States is perceived abroad."

See "Miles to Go," by Shane Harris and Greta Wodele, National Journal, January 14, reprinted here as "Bureaucracy hinders 9/11 commission recommendations":


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

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