from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 108
November 1, 2007

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Broad classification restrictions on the disclosure of historical intelligence information are making it difficult or impossible to accurately represent the record of U.S. foreign policy, an official advisory committee warned the Secretary of State last summer.

By law, the Department of State is obliged to publish "a complete, accurate and reliable documentary record of United States foreign policy" in its official Foreign Relations of the United States series.

But due to official secrecy, "the credibility of the series... remains in the balance," according to the newly disclosed report of the State Department's Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation.

For example, "The blanket denial by the CIA of the right to quote or cite from the President's Daily Briefs of the Nixon years and beyond will make it difficult to give a full and accurate rendering of the effect of intelligence assessments on the foreign relations of the United States.... [T]he continued exemption of the President's Daily Briefs may cause serious harm to the intellectual integrity of the Foreign Relations series."

Similarly, the Committee complained, the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board "has not allowed the historians of the [Foreign Relations] series access to its records [which] need to become accessible to the staff of the [State Department] Office of the Historian and be made available for inclusion in appropriate volumes of Foreign Relations of the United States."

In short, "Committee members believe that unless policies consistent with respect for the right of the American people to be fully informed about their government's conduct of foreign policy are adopted and implemented by the Executive Branch, it may become impossible for The Historian [of the State Department] to carry out his duties or for the committee to carry out its Congressionally mandated obligations."

See "Report of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, January 1-December 31, 2006," transmitted to the Secretary of State on June 19, 2007:


Although summary accounts of several National Intelligence Estimates have recently been declassified and published, this should not become standard practice, the Director of National Intelligence declared last week.

"It is the policy of the Director of National Intelligence that KJs [the Key Judgments from National Intelligence Estimates] should not be declassified," DNI J. Michael McConnell wrote.

"No predisposition to declassify KJs should exist in drafting an NIE or its KJs. Any decision to declassify will be made by the DNI and only after he and other National Intelligence Board principals have reviewed and approved the entire NIE."

"There is both a real and a perceived danger that analysts will adopt less bold approaches, or otherwise modify the way they characterize developments, and that the integrity of the NIE process could be harmed by expectations that all or portions of the NIE are likely to be declassified," the DNI asserted.

See "Guidance on Declassification of National Intelligence Estimate Key Judgments," memo to the Intelligence Community Workforce, October 24, 2007:

The new policy was first reported by Pamela Hess of the Associated Press.

Robert Jervis, the distinguished political scientist who advises the CIA on declassification policy, said that he supported the DNI's position.

With declassification, "you make the pressures of politicization that much greater," he told the Associated Press. "When you are writing an executive summary it's hard not to ask 'How is this sentence going to read in The New York Times?'"

But Michael Tanji, a veteran U.S. intelligence employee, disputed that view. "Having contributed to more than one of these in my career, I'm here to tell you, public opinion does not enter into the calculus."


Noteworthy new publications that we haven't had a chance to read closely yet include:

"National Strategy for Information Sharing: Successes and Challenges in Improving Terrorism-Related Information Sharing," National Security Council, October 2007:

"Army International Security Cooperation Policy," Army Regulation AR 11-31, 24 October 2007:

"A.Q. Khan's Nuclear Wal-Mart: Out of Business or Under New Management?" hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, June 27, 2007:

The Second Superseding Indictment of Noshir S. Gowadia, who was charged with unauthorized disclosure of classified information on stealth programs and technologies to China, Israel and several other countries, October 25, 2007:


"All of us were born kicking and fighting to live, but we have become used to the soft life.... What happens when we are faced with a survival situation with its stresses, inconveniences, and discomforts?"

That question is posed in a 2002 U.S. Army Field Manual on survival strategies and techniques in emergency situations.

Almost all of the contents will be familiar to students of wilderness medicine and first aid. (Except maybe "Prepare yourself to survive in a nuclear environment.") Nevertheless, U.S. Army web sites do not permit public access to the document, which says that distribution is limited to government agencies and contractors. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "Survival," U.S. Army Field Manual FM 3-05.70, May 2002 (676 pages in an extremely large 45 MB PDF file):


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

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