from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2006, Issue No. 78
July 11, 2006

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"Don't use your left hand for contact with others," advises the U.S. Marine Corps in a new edition of the Iraq Culture Smart Card which is distributed to military personnel in Iraq. "It is considered unclean."

It seems late in the day for such niceties. Amid the daily brutality of the Iraq war, there is probably little to be gained by courtesy or to be lost by mere rudeness.

But the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity evidently thinks otherwise.

The MCIA has produced an updated Iraq Culture Smart Card, dated May 2006, which features rudimentary information on Iraqi customs, religion and language. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News and is available here (in a very large 22 MB PDF file):


In a significant policy reversal, the Department of Defense last week formally directed that the humane treatment requirements of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions shall henceforth be applied to all prisoners and detainees in DoD custody (as first reported by the Financial Times). See this July 7 memorandum from Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England:

The procedures for trying enemy prisoners and detainees in the war on terror are again a subject of deliberation (and of a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today) in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling that the tribunals established by the Bush Administration are unlawful.

A 2005 report of the Congressional Research Service provides some background on the development of this issue. Though now out of date in certain respects, it includes useful tables comparing the various features and procedural safeguards of general courts-martial with those of military commissions and tribunals.

See "The Department of Defense Rules for Military Commissions: Analysis of Procedural Rules and Comparison with Proposed Legislation and the Uniform Code of Military Justice," updated August 4, 2005:

Other notable new CRS reports not readily available in the public domain include the following.

"National Emergency Powers," updated June 20, 2006:

"Nuclear Weapons: Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," updated June 21, 2006:

"Combat Aircraft Sales to South Asia: Potential Implications," July 6, 2006:

"Restructuring U.S. Foreign Aid: The Role of the Director of Foreign Assistance," June 16, 2006:


The House Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing July 13 on the role that considerations of foreign influence play in decisions to grant or deny security clearances for access to classified information.

One of the principal considerations leading to denial of a security clearance is when the applicant has relatives or relationships or other ties abroad in countries of concern, and particularly in the Middle East and the Far East.

This approach, if applied too rigidly, can be counter-productive since the best linguists and the most accomplished area experts will almost invariably have "relationships" of one kind or another with persons in their region of expertise.

But the process for adjudicating disputes over clearances seems distinctly skewed against the applicant.

In a new report, attorney Sheldon Cohen identified a peculiar anomaly in the performance of the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA), which rules on disputed clearance matters for the Defense Department. In the large majority of disputes presented to it, he found, DOHA has consistently ruled against the applicant.

"If Department Counsel appeals a decision granting a clearance, it is virtually assured that the Appeal Board will reverse. Yet, if an applicant appeals a decision involving a foreign connection denying a clearance, the Appeal Board will assuredly affirm the denial," found Cohen, who specializes in security clearance cases.

See "Appeal Board Decisions of the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals: Are They Arbitrary and Capricious?" by Sheldon I. Cohen, July 10, 2006, linked from here:


A May 18 letter sent to President Bush by House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Pete Hoekstra criticizing Administration policy on intelligence (first reported July 9 by Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane of the New York Times) has already earned an enduring place in the annals of congressional oversight of intelligence.

While it has been welcomed by some as a sign of congressional vigor and independence, the letter from Chairman Hoekstra also features a weird admixture of paranoia and pique.

"I have been long concerned that a strong and well-positioned group within the Agency intentionally undermined the Administration and its policies," he wrote.

This conspiracy theory, previously alleged mainly by some conservative bloggers and editorial writers, "is supported by the Ambassador Wilson/Valerie Plame events" -- despite the fact that Valerie Plame, whose CIA career was destroyed, would appear to be a victim rather than a perpetrator -- "as well as by the string of unauthorized disclosures."

"I have come to the belief that, despite his service to the [Directorate of Operations], Mr. Kappes [the new CIA Deputy Director] may have been part of this group."

Kappes must be viewed with suspicion, Hoekstra explained, since his appointment was not opposed by House Democrats!

"I must take note when my Democratic colleagues - those who so vehemently denounced and publicly attacked the strong choice of Porter Goss as Director - now publicly support Mr. Kappes's return," Chairman Hoekstra observed acutely.

"Further, the details surrounding Mr. Kappes's [2004] departure from the CIA give me great pause. Mr. Kappes was not fired, but, as I understand it, summarily resigned his position shortly after Director Goss responded to his demonstrated contempt for Congress and the Intelligence Committees' oversight responsibilities."

This is an idiosyncratic description of a dispute that arose between senior DO officials and the former congressional staff members who accompanied Director Goss to CIA, which led to the resignations of several officials.

"The fact is, Mr. Kappes and his Deputy, Mr. Sulick, were developing a communications offensive to bypass the Intelligence Committees and the CIA's own Office of Congressional Affairs. One can only speculate on the motives but it clearly indicates a willingness to promote a personal agenda," Rep. Hoekstra wrote.

As David Corn wrote in The Nation, "It's hard to know who to root for" in this strange clash of personalities and institutions.

Maybe the answer is that the conflict itself is the good news, since it restores a healthy tension to the oversight process and drives the disclosure of new information into the public domain.

Coincidentally, Michael Sulick, one of the members of the supposed anti-Bush "cabal" at CIA named by Rep. Hoekstra, is the author of a colorful new first-person account of a CIA initiative to establish relations with Lithuania in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell.

See "As the USSR Collapsed: A CIA Officer in Lithuania" by Michael J. Sulick, Studies in Intelligence, vol. 50, no. 2, 2006:


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

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