from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 66
June 5, 2006

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In the near future a federal court will decide whether the prosecution of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) for allegedly mishandling classified information can proceed, or whether it must be dismissed on First Amendment grounds.

It will be a fateful decision either way.

If the prosecution is permitted to proceed, it would reflect an unprecedented determination that private individuals who are not engaged in espionage can be punished for receiving and transmitting national defense information. Such a finding would instantly transform many national security reporters, researchers and others into potential criminals.

If the case is dismissed, it would imply a bold affirmation of First Amendment values against the encroachment of a Justice Department that keeps testing its ever-expanding boundaries.

In their latest pleading, the defendants called the attention of Judge T.S. Ellis, III, to a new decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which they said supports their argument for dismissal of the AIPAC case.

The Supreme Court decision last week, in a case called Garcetti v. Ceballos, held that when a government employee makes a statement as part of his official duties, he does not enjoy First Amendment protections against retaliation by his employer. The decision was widely viewed as a defeat for whistleblower rights.

But attorneys for the former AIPAC defendants pointed to the sharp distinction made by the Supreme Court between the speech of a government official, which the Court said is not protected by the First Amendment, and the speech of a member of the public, who still possesses First Amendment rights.

"Ceballos confirms the defendants' argument that while it may be proper to sanction a government employee for certain types of speech, the First Amendment does not allow the government to punish subsequent oral transmissions by non-government individuals" like those in the AIPAC case, the defense attorneys wrote.

"The Motion to Dismiss should be granted."

See "Defendants' Notice of Supreme Court Decision Relevant to Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss the Superseding Indictment," filed June 2, 2006 in USA v. Rosen, Weissman:


In the event of an attack against the United States involving weapons of mass destruction, National Guard units known as WMD civil support teams (CST) would be called upon to respond.

"The mission of the WMD CST is to support civil authorities at a domestic CBRNE [chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive] incident site by identifying CBRNE agents/substances, assessing current and projected consequences, advising on response measures, and assisting with requests for additional support."

The operation of WMD civil support teams was described in a recent National Guard publication on "Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team Management," January 12, 2006 (1.2 MB PDF):

Further detail is presented in "Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures," U.S. Army Field Manual FM 3-11.22, June 2003 (233 pages, 6 MB PDF):


"The U.S. Armed Forces disposed of chemical weapons in the ocean from World War I through 1970," the Congressional Research Service recalled in a valuable new report.

"At that time, it was thought that the vastness of ocean waters would absorb chemical agents that may leak from these weapons. However, public concerns about human health and environmental risks, and the economic effects of potential damage to marine resources, led to a statutory prohibition on the disposal of chemical weapons in the ocean in 1972."

"For many years, there was little attention to weapons that had been dumped offshore prior to this prohibition. However, the U.S. Army completed a report in 2001 indicating that the past disposal of chemical weapons in the ocean had been more common and widespread geographically than previously acknowledged."

"The Army cataloged 74 instances of disposal through 1970, including 32 instances off U.S. shores and 42 instances off foreign shores. The disclosure of these records has renewed public concern about lingering risks from chemical weapons still in the ocean today."

See "U.S. Disposal of Chemical Weapons in the Ocean: Background and Issues for Congress," May 24, 2006:

Some other recent CRS reports obtained by Secrecy News that are not readily available in the public domain include:

"Defense: FY2007 Authorization and Appropriations," updated May 31, 2006:

"The Changing Demographic Profile of the United States," updated May 5, 2006:


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

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