from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 70
June 15, 2006

Secrecy News Blog:

Support Secrecy News:


Congressional oversight of intelligence is "dysfunctional," according to a new report from the liberal Center for American Progress.

Some of the most urgent and fundamental policy issues facing the nation are matters of intelligence policy: What are the proper boundaries of domestic intelligence surveillance? What is the legal framework for interrogation of enemy detainees? Why haven't the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission been effectively implemented?

But at a moment when intelligence policy is relatively high on the public agenda, the intelligence oversight committees in Congress seem to have little to contribute.

Even on specific intelligence questions such as the conduct of warrantless domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency, the public can gain more insight from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has held several public hearings on the subject, than from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has held none.

The new Center for American Progress report provides a useful survey of the history of intelligence oversight and its current failings, along with a prescription for improvement.

"Correcting the problems that plague congressional oversight of intelligence will not require dramatic changes in the existing oversight structure. Congress has all the tools it needs to conduct its oversight responsibilities is simply not using them. It must."

See "No Mere Oversight: Congressional Oversight of Intelligence is Broken," June 13, 2006:

Some of the limitations of intelligence oversight are implicit in the structure of the process.

For an earlier (1992) self-critical account by a staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, see "Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: One Perspective" by Mary K. Sturtevant, American Intelligence Journal, Summer 1992:

A recent study of Romania's intelligence apparatus finds that "legislative control of intelligence in Romania can be estimated on a low-medium-high scale as 'medium to high'."

Furthermore, in Romania "the budgets of the intelligence agencies are transparent," which is more than can be said about U.S. intelligence.

See "The Intelligence Phenomenon in a New Democratic Milieu: Romania -- A Case Study" by Valentin Fernand Filip, Naval Postgraduate School, March 2006:


The National Security Archive filed suit against the Central Intelligence Agency after the CIA began imposing costs to process Freedom of Information Act requests that it said were not "newsworthy" and therefore not entitled to a fee waiver.

By interposing its own editorial judgment in the FOIA process, the CIA in effect is "trying to close off use of the FOIA by journalists," said Archive General Counsel Meredith Fuchs.

See "CIA Claims the Right to Decide What is News," June 14:

The ACLU filed suit against the Pentagon seeking disclosure of information about the TALON (Threat and Local Observation Notice) database, which has been used improperly to store information on domestic political activities.

See "ACLU tries to force Pentagon to turn over records on peace groups" by Drew Brown, Knight Ridder Newspapers, June 14:

In almost every lawsuit against the government in which an agency invokes the "state secrets" privilege, the courts end up dismissing the entire case.

"But that's not the way it has to be," wrote constitutional scholar Louis Fisher of the Law Library of Congress in a new op-ed. "Judges have a constitutional duty to function as neutral referees to allow each side to present its case fairly."

See "Give judges a peek at secrets" by Louis Fisher, Los Angeles Times, June 14:

"The Pentagon has stopped releasing its assessment of the number of Iraqi army units deemed capable of battling insurgents without U.S. military help," in what appears to be a clear instance of politically-motivated secrecy.

"The decision to stop making the information public came after reports showed a steady decline in the number of qualified Iraqi units."

See "U.S. mum on strength of Iraqi troops" by Eric Rosenberg, Hearst Newspapers, June 12:


The organization and management of U.S. Air Force space activities from pre-launch to post-operational disposal are described in a new AF Space Command Instruction on "satellite operations."

"The objective of satellite disposal is to reduce the potential for spacecraft collisions and frequency interference, to mitigate the creation of additional space debris and to open orbital slots to newer SVs [satellite vehicles]."

"Therefore, de-orbiting or removing a non-mission capable satellite from its operational orbit and placing it into an established disposal region is of paramount importance."

See "Satellite Operations," U.S. Air Force Space Command Instruction 10-1204, 1 June 2006:


Some random reports of the Congressional Research Service that are not otherwise readily available in the public domain include the following:

"Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Issues and Legislative Options," May 22, 2006:

"Australia: Background and U.S. Relations," April 20, 2006:

"China's Impact on the U.S. Automotive Industry," April 4, 2006:

"The Congressional Charter of the American National Red Cross: Overview, History, and Analysis," March 15, 2006:


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

The Secrecy News blog is at:

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, send an email message to with "subscribe" (without quotes) in the body of the message.

To UNSUBSCRIBE, send a blank email message to

OR email your request to

Secrecy News is archived at:

SUPPORT Secrecy News with a donation here: