from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 24
March 2, 2007

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A sweeping proposal by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) to criminalize the unauthorized disclosure or publication of classified information about U.S. Government activities relating to terrorism was abruptly withdrawn on February 28 in the face of vigorous protests by public interest, press and First Amendment advocacy groups.

But then a modified, more narrowly focused version was reintroduced on the Senate floor on March 2 as an amendment to S.4, the pending bill on enacting the remaining recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

The new Kyl amendment would penalize employees of the House or Senate or other authorized personnel who knowingly disclose classified information that is contained in a report to Congress. See the text of the amendment here:

"Singling out employees of Congress for criminal sanctions would be virtually unprecedented," said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies.

It also "raises serious separation of powers concerns," she said, since classification criteria and practices are dictated by the executive branch. "And it would demonstrate a lack of confidence by the Congress that it can police its own house."


The Bush Administration formally notified the Senate this week that it objects to a provision in a pending bill on homeland security that would require publication of the annual intelligence budget total.

"The Administration strongly opposes the requirement in the bill to publicly disclose sensitive information about the intelligence budget."

"Disclosure, including disclosure to the Nation's enemies and adversaries in a time of war, of the amounts requested by the President and provided by the Congress for the conduct of the Nation's intelligence activities would provide no meaningful information to the general American public, but would provide significant intelligence to America's adversaries and could cause damage to the national security interests of the United States," the White House statement said.

It is hard to find a serious intelligence professional who agrees with this White House view.

Because the intelligence budget total is a high-level aggregate of spending levels in more than a dozen different agencies, its intelligence value to U.S. adversaries is practically nil, since funding for any particular program is insulated many layers beneath the enormous top-line figure. On the other hand, disclosure of the total figure would provide the public with a reliable index of the magnitude of intelligence spending to compare with spending on other national priorities.

To critics and other observers, intelligence budget secrecy is the preeminent example of unnecessary and inappropriate classification.

For that reason, the 9/11 Commission recommended that budget disclosure is the best way to begin reversing the spread of bureaucratic secrecy that has undermined the performance of U.S. intelligence agencies. The 9/11 Commission recommendation was incorporated into the Senate bill (S.4), which is expected to pass the Senate next week.

In other important disputes, the new White House statement also took sharp exception to provisions in the bill that would strengthen the Public Interest Declassification Board, enhance whistleblower protections for intelligence community employees, and require increased intelligence and information sharing with state and local officials.


The somber duties associated with official reporting of U.S. Army casualties, including notification of survivors, are spelled out in exhaustive detail in a new Army regulation.

"Generally, casualty matters are unclassified," the regulation states (obliquely admitting the possibility of classified casualties), "but they are assigned the protective marking of For Official Use Only" until after notification of next of kin.

The new regulation provides "notification scripts" for use in informing family members of their loss in various circumstances including, for example, suspected friendly fire cases:

"The Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your (relationship) (died/was killed in action) in (country) on (date). (State the circumstances). His/her death is a result of suspected friendly fire. A formal investigation is being conducted...."

"The CNO [casualty notification officer] will internalize the script ... before proceeding to make notification and will relay the information orally and in person in a calm and sensitive manner to the person being notified," the regulation states.

"The CNO team members should not have alcohol on their breath or be inebriated."

See "Army Casualty Program," Army Regulation AR 600-8-1, February 28, 2007:


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

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