from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 73
July 2, 2006

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The House of Representatives last week condemned the unauthorized disclosure of classified information concerning a government program to track terrorist financing that was reported in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets on June 23.

The June 29 resolution, approved 227-183, included a veiled rebuke to the press, stating that the House "expects the cooperation of all news media organizations in protecting the lives of Americans ... by not disclosing classified intelligence programs such as the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program."

The House debate on the resolution was none too edifying.

Rep. Barney Frank pointed out that the resolution contained a number of factual errors, including its assertion that "In 1998, disclosure of classified information regarding efforts to monitor the communication of Osama bin Laden eliminated a valuable source of intelligence information on al Qaeda's activities."

Rep. Frank showed that this allegation, referring to a supposed leak that was published in the Washington Times, has been conclusively refuted. But to no avail. Under the uncompromising rules adopted by the Republican leadership, no amendments were permitted. As a result, it was not possible to correct errors in the House resolution or to clarify matters of principle.

Nevertheless, there is a broad consensus on the outer limits of the debate.

On the one hand, all parties (other than a few provocateurs on the political right) agree that freedom of the press means that the press must be free to publish more than just what government officials authorize them to publish. On the other hand, there is universal agreement even among the media that certain types of information should not be published in the interests of national security.

What remains in dispute is whether information on programs such as warrantless domestic surveillance or terrorist finance tracking falls in the proscribed category.

The transcript of the floor debate on House Resolution 895, "Supporting Intelligence and Law Enforcement Programs to Track Terrorists and Terrorist Finances," may be found here:

The campaign to criminalize publication of classified information was reviewed by Scott Sherman in "Chilling the Press," The Nation, July 17:

A ringing defense of the disclosure of the terrorist finance tracking program was offered in a June 28 editorial in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune that was syndicated by the Scripps Howard News Service. See "Secret U.S. program deserves scrutiny":


One reason why classification is an unreliable guide as to what should or should not be published by the press is that classification policy is implemented erratically by the government.

In a new report for Congress, the Government Accountability Office found numerous problems in classification activity at the Department of Defense.

"Our review of a ... sample of 111 classified DOD documents from five OSD offices shows that, within these offices, DOD personnel are not uniformly following established procedures for classifying information, to include correctly marking classified information," the GAO report said.

"In our review of the OSD documents, we questioned DOD officials' classification decisions for 29 documents--that is, 26 percent of the sample."

"The majority of our questions centered around two problems: the inconsistent treatment of similar information within the same document, and whether all of the information marked as classified met established criteria for classification."

See "Managing Sensitive Information: DOD Can More Effectively Reduce the Risk of Classification Errors," June 30, 2006:

A companion report reviewed classification activity at the Department of Energy.

See "Managing Sensitive Information: Actions Needed to Ensure Recent Changes in DOE Oversight Do Not Weaken an Effective Classification System," June 30, 2006:


Stanley Moskowitz, a Central Intelligence Agency official who recently played a leading role in winning declassification of intelligence records on Nazi war criminals, died last week.

"Stan Moskowitz deserves a lot of credit for the Nazi records release, which he managed to accomplish despite a lot of opposition from a directorate which shall not be named," one former CIA employee told Secrecy News.

"His position was that, not only were the records 50 years old, but most of the people mentioned in them were Nazis for god's sake. What and why should we still be protecting?"

"Stan Moskowitz pursued this like he did every other assignment in his lifetime of service to America, to preserve and protect our freedom while honoring the democratic traditions of a government which we can trust and be proud of," wrote B, another admirer.

"He conducted his lifetime of service within the constraints of the ethical and moral principles which set us apart from those who wish us harm."

See "Stanley M. Moskowitz, 68; Twice CIA Liaison to Congress," Washington Post, July 1:


The global war on terror has cost the U.S. $437 billion since September 11, the Congressional Research Service estimated last month, including $319 billion for the war in Iraq. (The Pentagon claims the latter figure should be $210 billion.)

The CRS cost estimate has been widely reported, but the underlying report has not been widely available to the public. Now it is:

"The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," updated June 14, 2006:

Some other notable CRS reports obtained by Secrecy News include the following.

"Military Operations: Precedents for Funding Contingency Operations in Regular or in Supplemental Appropriations Bills," June 13, 2006:

"Defense Procurement: Full Funding Policy -- Background, Issues, and Options for Congress," updated June 20, 2006:

"U.S. Democracy Promotion Policy in the Middle East: The Islamist Dilemma," June 15, 2006:

"Freedom of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendment," updated June 2, 2006:


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

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