from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 44
April 6, 2006

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President Bush specifically authorized Vice Presidential aide Scooter Libby to disclose information from a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller in July 2003, effectively declassifying the information, according to a government filing (pdf) in the Libby prosecution yesterday.

"Defendant's [i.e. Libby's] participation in a critical conversation with Judith Miller on July 8 [2003] occurred only after the Vice President advised defendant that the President specifically had authorized defendant to disclose certain information in the NIE," the government filing stated (at pp. 19-20).

"Defendant [Libby] testified that the circumstances of his conversation with reporter Miller -- getting approval from the President through the Vice President to discuss material that would be classified but for that approval -- were unique in his recollection."

The new filing in the Libby case was first reported today in the New York Sun.

Whatever its significance for the Libby case, the latest filing helps to resolve a lingering question that arose last February regarding the Vice President's role in authorizing the disclosure of classified information. It appears that the Vice President did not direct disclosure on his own authority but on that of the President.

"Defendant [Libby] testified that the Vice President later advised him that the President had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE. Defendant testified that he also spoke to David Addington, then Counsel to the Vice President, whom defendant considered to be an expert in national security law, and Mr. Addington opined that Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document amounted to a declassification of the document," the government filing said (p. 23).

See "Government's Response to Defendant's Third Motion to Compel Discovery," April 5, 2006:

See also "Bush Said to Have Cleared Early Release of Iraq Intelligence to Times" by Josh Gerstein, New York Sun, April 6:


Of the 13,000 entries in the Pentagon's TALON database of potential threats to the Department of Defense facilities and personnel, some two percent did not involve threats and should not have been retained, Pentagon officials acknowledged yesterday.

The TALON system "should be used only to report information regarding international terrorist activity," said Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England in a March 30 memo.

See "Pentagon Threat Database Kept Reports It Shouldn't Have" by Peter Spiegel, Los Angeles Times, April 6:

The fact that the TALON database included information on American citizens engaged in peaceful protest activities was first disclosed several months ago by NBC News and author Bill Arkin.

The DoD experience provides an empirical basis to question the propriety of intelligence collection under the President's warrantless surveillance program. But investigations of that program have been blocked in Congress.

Secretary England's March 30 memo on "Threats to the Department of Defense" may be found here:


An ambitious bill to promote an entire menu of "good government" reforms in the executive branch was endorsed on a bipartisan basis in the House Government Reform Committee today and reported to the full House.

The bill would notably limit the use of "pseudo-classification" markings such as "sensitive but unclassified" and "for official use only" unless they are authorized by statute or regulation. Such markings have been increasingly used by government agencies to restrict public access to unclassified information.

The "Executive Branch Reform Act of 2006," HR 5112, was introduced by Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA), and unanimously supported by the Committee's members.

Among its various provisions the bill would: end secret meetings between lobbyists and most executive branch officials; enhance protections for national security whistleblowers; and ban covertly sponsored government propaganda.

See the text of the "Executive Branch Reform Act of 2006," introduced April 6, here:


The implications of increasing government secrecy are examined in a special issue of "I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society."

A series of articles, mainly academic in tenor, address both the "theory" and the practice of secrecy from various perspectives and on topics such as Biosecurity and Secrecy Policy, for example.

The I/S Journal is published by Ohio State University and Carnegie Mellon. The special issue on secrecy was sponsored by The Century Foundation and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (which also supports Secrecy News).

The full text of "Federal Secrecy After September 11 and the Future of the Information Society" can be found online here:


One of the lacunae in the history of defense policy and science advice to government concerns the role of the JASON advisory panel. A fascinating new book on the JASONs helps to fill in that mysterious gap.

Established in 1960, the JASONs first gained unwelcome public attention as the result of a reference in the leaked Pentagon Papers. They have only rarely since been heard from in public.

Their membership is not publicized. Their meetings are closed. The publications are mostly classified. Their impact is hard to assess.

Author Ann Finkbeiner interviewed 36 JASONs, "roughly half of the membership," and gleaned more about their activities than has ever appeared on the public record before, beginning with a definitive account of the origin of the JASON name (it was coined by Mildred Goldberger, the wife of Murph Goldberger, who is a JASON founding member and a friend of Secrecy News).

In her engaging and highly readable book, Finkbeiner traces the work of the JASONs over four decades and introduces many of the group's original, eccentric and hyper-intelligent members.

See "The JASONs: The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite" by Ann Finkbeiner, Viking, April 2006:

A selection of unclassified JASON reports may be found here:


The next issue of Secrecy News will be published the week of April 17.


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

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