from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 46
April 17, 2006
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- NARA RELEASES SECOND MEMO ON DOCUMENT RECLASSIFICATION
- DOE INTELLIGENCE EMBRACES DISCREDITED BUDGET SECRECY POLICY
NARA RELEASES SECOND MEMO ON DOCUMENT RECLASSIFICATION
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) today released a second newly declassified Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the withdrawal of government records from its public collections.National Archivist Allen Weinstein said that he discovered the existence of the second MOU (pdf), which was signed by the Central Intelligence Agency and NARA in October 2001, only last Thursday and that he immediately sought its declassification. Another MOU (pdf) on document withdrawal, signed by Air Force and NARA in March 2002, was released in declassified form last week. Until its recent discovery by researcher Matthew Aid, with the support of the National Security Archive, the document withdrawal activity at the National Archives had been conducted secretly, as if it were some kind of covert action. "It is in the interests of both the CIA and the National Archives and Records Administration to avoid the kind of public notice and researcher complaints that may arise from removing from the open shelves for extended periods of time records that had been public available," the 2001 MOU stated. The resulting firestorm of criticism that has been directed at the National Archives is "absolutely fair," said Archivist Weinstein in a meeting with historians and public interest groups today. He took responsibility for the affair (which originated prior to his appointment as Archivist). More significantly, he repudiated the underlying practice. "There can never be a classified aspect to our mission," Weinstein said. "Classified agreements are the antithesis of our reason for being." "If records must be removed for reasons of national security, the American people will always, at the very least, know when it occurs and how many records are affected." An audit of the document withdrawal program by the Information Security Oversight Office is expected to be released on April 26. See this April 17 NARA news release, with links to the newly release MOU and related background material:
Beyond the unwarranted secrecy of the document withdrawal program, a deeper problem concerns official policy on classification of historical records.Since many of the withdrawn documents are publicly accessible elsewhere, their withdrawal provides the public a rare opportunity to evaluate current classification policy as practiced by executive branch agencies. It is not a very satisfactory picture. One publicly available document that was modified by the Central Intelligence Agency in a revealingly obtuse way was featured in a New York Times story yesterday. See "Why the Secrecy? Only the Bureaucrats Know" by Scott Shane, New York Times, April 16 (free reg. req'd.):
DOE INTELLIGENCE EMBRACES DISCREDITED BUDGET SECRECY POLICY
The Department of Energy Office of Intelligence has reverted to a policy of budget secrecy that it rejected more than a decade ago.For as long as anyone can remember, the small DOE intelligence unit always had an unclassified budget (around $40 million in recent years). "The size of the DOE intelligence budget is not classified because it does not reveal the size or the components of the Department's National Foreign Intelligence Program," wrote John G. Keliher, then-Director of the DOE Office of Nonproliferation and National Security on June 24, 1994. "The DOE intelligence budget does not disclose any classified information. National security is neither threatened nor damaged as a result of the UNCLASSIFIED intelligence budget released to the public," Mr. Keliher wrote. See his 1994 letter here:
Interestingly, the other member of the U.S. intelligence community with an unclassified budget is the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).It may be more than a coincidence that INR and DOE intelligence analysts also distinguished themselves by dissenting from prevailing government views on Iraq's supposed "reconstitution" of its nuclear weapons program. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission recommended that all U.S. intelligence agencies should do what INR and DOE Intelligence had long done, and disclose their annual budget totals. "To combat the secrecy and complexity we have described, the overall amounts of money being appropriated for national intelligence and to its component agencies should no longer be kept secret," the Commission wrote in its final report (p. 416). Other agencies simply ignored the 9/11 Commission's recommendation. But amazingly, DOE responded by doing the exact opposite of what the 9/11 Commission said was necessary. Boldly striving for mediocrity, DOE began to classify its intelligence budget figure in Fiscal Year 2005. A longstanding request from Secrecy News for an explanation of DOE's retreat into the budget secrecy that it previously disavowed has gone unanswered. Instead, DOE officials have sought to purge prior disclosures of intelligence budget information from the agency website. This material has been recovered here:
It hardly comes as a surprise that DOE intelligence is now facing a period of internal turmoil.One possible outcome, "which the DOE Secretary reportedly has approved but not yet initiated, would be to integrate the DOE's Office of Intelligence... and DOE's CI [Counterintelligence] office under a newly created DOE intelligence agency," according to a new Congressional Research Service report. A copy of the CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News. See "Intelligence Reform at the Department of Energy: Policy Issues and Organizational Alternatives," April 10, 2006:
The DOE Office of Classification publishes a newsletter called "CommuniQue," which presents instructional tips for classifiers and declassifiers and provides notification of new and forthcoming classification guides. The latest issue, dated February 2006, is available here:
The possible integration of DOE intelligence and counterintelligence was first reported by Bill Gertz in The Washington Times on February 21.The Director of the DOE Office of Intelligence is Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. ******************************
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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