from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 22
February 17, 2006

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The American Bar Association (ABA) adopted a resolution this week calling on the Attorney General to affirm that designating a record as "sensitive but unclassified" does not provide a legal basis for withholding that record.

The ABA also called for establishment of a standardized policy for employing the "sensitive but unclassified" (SBU) marking.

The increasingly common SBU designation has become problematic because SBU records are neither fish nor fowl -- neither formally classified nor publicly available -- and there are no commonly agreed upon standards for invoking the term.

"Agencies allow the marking of many types of records as SBU. This patchwork of definitions for safeguarding such records contributes to confusion regarding whether information should be withheld under FOIA. Such confusion is exacerbated by the fact that the term SBU is not derived from an existing FOIA exemption," according to the ABA.

"Our Recommendation seeks the issuance of public guidance from the U.S. Attorney General, clarifying that the SBU classification does not constitute grounds for withholding information that would otherwise be disclosed under FOIA... Such a policy directive would help to reduce instances of excessive withholding caused by the confusion and lack of oversight concerning this designation."

See the ABA Resolution (adopted on February 13), along with an informational report (which was not formally adopted), here:

As it happens, a government-wide effort to standardize SBU policy is now underway, as previously reported (Secrecy News, 12/20/05).


Efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to assert itself as a viable member of the U.S. intelligence community have yielded a new strategic plan for homeland security intelligence and a management directive organizing the Department's intelligence activity.

The new strategic plan is a handsome document, but largely devoid of significant content.

See "DHS Intelligence Enterprise Strategic Plan," January 2006 (3.3 MB PDF file):

And see "Intelligence Integration and Management," DHS Management Directive 8110, January 30, 2006:

Relatedly, "DHS Has Not Implemented an Information Security Program for Its Intelligence Systems," according to the title of a new DHS Inspector General report (flagged by


Several recently updated reports of the Congressional Research Service deal with the People's Republic of China, including the following.

"China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues," updated January 31, 2006:

"China's Economic Conditions," updated January 12, 2006:

"China's Trade with the United States and the World," updated January 23, 2006:

"China-U.S. Relations: Current Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy," updated January 20, 2006:

The use of commercial satellite photographs to identify an underground Chinese submarine base was reported in the FAS Strategic Security Blog on February 16:


In discussing the Vice President's declassification authority yesterday, we should have noted that some categories of information are protected by statute, not just by executive order. Such information, including intelligence sources and methods that are protected by the National Security Act, cannot simply be declassified by presidential (or vice presidential) fiat.

The point was made in "The White House's maestro of secrets," Roanoke Times, February 17:

The AIPAC case, involving the use of the Espionage Act to prosecute the receipt (and not merely the disclosure) of classified information, was viewed from Israel in "Washington: Lobbying for freedom of speech" by Nathan Guttman, Jerusalem Post, February 16:

"Criticism rained down on Vice President Dick Cheney this week for failing to disclose his hunting accident to the public for a day, but advocates of open government said the episode was nothing new. For five years, they said, Cheney has led the Bush administration's efforts to curtail the flow of government information."

See "Activists assert secrecy is Cheney's hallmark" by Charlie Savage, Boston Globe, February 17:


The records of two confirmation hearings conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have just been published: that of Benjamin A. Powell to be General Counsel in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and that of John S. Redd to be Director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Each contains some interesting details about the nominees, and some useful questions for the record presenting their views of their respective positions (in the full PDF versions only, linked within the pages below).

The hearing record for Mr. Powell, the new ODNI General Counsel, also features (in the PDF version) a reprint of a technical paper he co-authored in the journal "Computers and Chemical Engineering" entitled "Adaptive Networks for Fault Diagnosis and Process Control."

See the Powell confirmation hearing here:

and the Redd confirmation hearing here:


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

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