from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 53
May 1, 2006

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Electronic surveillance and physical searches conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reached a new record high in 2005, according to the latest annual report to Congress.

"During calendar year 2005, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved 2,072 applications for authority to conduct electronic surveillance and physical search," the new annual report stated.

"The FISC made substantive modifications to the Government's proposed orders in 61 of those applications. The FISC did not deny, in whole or in part, any application filed by the Government during calendar year 2005."

In 2004, by comparison, there were 1,754 such authorizations.

By definition, these data do not reflect the controversial warrantless surveillance activities that the Bush Administration has conducted outside of the legal framework of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, in what is arguably a criminal violation of the law.

The new annual report to Congress for the first time included data on applications made by the Government for access to business records for foreign intelligence purposes; and on the use of National Security Letters to obtain information concerning United States persons.

See the FISA Annual Report for Calendar Year 2005, dated April 28, 2006, here:


In the security policy equivalent of shutting down the government, the Defense Security Service announced Friday that it would no longer process applications from industry for new security clearances or reinvestigations of existing clearances.

"Owing to the overwhelming volume of requests for industry personnel security investigations and funding constraints, the Defense Security Service has discontinued accepting industry requests for new personnel security clearances and periodic reinvestigations effective immediately and until further notice," DSS said in an "urgent notice" sent to cleared contractor organizations on April 28.

"The Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office [DISCO] will reject any requests that are submitted." See:

There are an estimated 800,000 defense industry personnel that hold security clearances, and a steadily growing demand for more.

Three thousand new applications for security clearances have already been put on hold, the Washington Post reported on April 29.


There is no excuse for unauthorized disclosures of classified information, it is argued, because whistleblowers who have legitimate complaints about classified government misconduct can use official channels to convey those concerns on a classified basis.

But as a practical matter, those channels are often blocked or ineffectual.

That is what former National Security Agency employee Russell D. Tice discovered when he attempted to initiate contact with the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to report what he believed to be "probable illegal conduct" by the NSA.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) did not respond to Mr. Tice's approach at all.

House Intelligence Committee staffers met with Mr. Tice but concluded that neither they nor any member of the Committee had the requisite security clearances to receive his complaint.

See several letters to Congress sent by Mr. Tice last week, summarizing his conundrum, here:

In an astonishing letter sent last January, the NSA itself advised Mr. Tice that the congressional intelligence committees were not cleared to receive his information, which involve Department of Defense Special Access Programs, and that he should not convey any classified information to them without prior coordination.

While affirming "unequivocally" that Mr. Tice has "every right to petition Congress" as "guaranteed to you by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution," the NSA proceeded to warn Mr. Tice not to contact the committees without first providing a statement of his complaint to the Department of Defense Inspector General or the NSA Inspector General.

Thereafter, the NSA said, he should follow the instruction of the Secretary of Defense "on how to contact the intelligence committees in accordance with appropriate security practices." See:


Some notable recent reports of the Congressional Research Service that have not been readily available to the public include the following:

"China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues," updated April 6, 2006:

"Protection of Classified Information by Congress: Practices and Proposals," updated April 5, 2006:

"Navy Ship Propulsion Technologies: Options for Reducing Oil Use -- Background for Congress," April 12, 2006:

"FY2006 Supplemental Appropriations: Iraq and Other International Activities; Additional Katrina Hurricane Relief," updated April 14, 2006:

"Immigration Enforcement Within the United States," April 6, 2006:

"Patent Reform: Issues in the Biomedical and Software Industries," April 7, 2006:

"Oil Shale: History, Incentives, and Policy," April 13, 2006:


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

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