from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 111
November 7, 2007

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Prosecutors will be permitted to secretly present certain recorded surveillance data to a jury in the forthcoming trial of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who are accused of unauthorized receipt and disclosure of classified information, a federal judge ruled last week.

Although the closely watched AIPAC case will not go to trial until January, it has already left a distinct imprint on national security law and litigation.

In eleven memorandum opinions issued to date, Judge T.S. Ellis, III has significantly reinterpreted the Espionage Act of 1917, broken new legal ground in implementing the Classified Information Procedures Act (which regulates the use of classified information in criminal trials), and set other precedents.

Last week, Judge Ellis approved limited use at trial of the so-called "silent witness rule," an unconventional tactic that permits prosecutors to withhold evidence from the public and to disclose it only to the parties, the witnesses and the jury. Because this amounts to closing the trial, it runs the risk of infringing on constitutional guarantees that trials will be public.

The silent witness rule "is a novel evidence presentation technique that has received little judicial attention is the context of the use of classified information in trials," Judge Ellis noted. "No published decision has explicitly approved or endorsed use of the rule in this context."

But that has now changed. Judge Ellis approved limited use of the rule to secretly introduce evidence -- more evidence than the defense wanted, but less than the prosecution asked for.

Prosecutors had initially sought to introduce 18 minutes and 24 seconds of recorded surveillance conversations along with 36 documents under the silent witness rule. But Judge Ellis only approved "silent" introduction of 4 minutes and 6 seconds of recorded conversation (and apparently no documents).

See Judge Ellis' November 1 Memorandum Opinion here (pp. 10-20):

In the same Opinion, Judge Ellis restated the stringent standard that he has set for the prosecution to win a conviction on charges of conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act by oral disclosure of national defense information (NDI):

"The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that... the defendants (i) knew that the information ... was NDI, i.e. knew that the information was closely held by the government and that the disclosure of the information would be damaging to the national security, (ii) knew the persons to whom the disclosures would be made were not authorized to receive the information, (iii) knew the disclosures the conspiracy contemplated making were unlawful, (iv) had reason to believe the information disclosed could be used to the injury of the United States or to the aid of a foreign nation, and (v) intended that such injury to the United States or aid to a foreign nation result from the disclosures."

"The conspiracy charge fails absent proof of these mental state elements," Judge Ellis wrote (pp. 9-10).

Also last week, Judge Ellis issued another Opinion approving a defense request for authorization to subpoena testimony from fifteen current and former officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Secrecy News, 11/02/07).

"The government's refusal to comply with a subpoena in these circumstances may result in dismissal or a lesser sanction," Judge Ellis warned in that November 2 Opinion.


A recently revised Defense Department regulation provides new detail on the preparation of the annual intelligence budget request, and on the documentation needed to support it.

The U.S. intelligence budget is comprised of two spending "aggregations": the National Intelligence Program (NIP) and the Military Intelligence Program (MIP). (This configuration replaced the former National Foreign Intelligence Program, Joint Military Intelligence Program, and Tactical Intelligence and Related Activities.)

The NIP budget, which totaled $43.5 billion in 2007 according to last week's official disclosure, funds intelligence to support national policy makers. The MIP budget, which probably amounts to at least another $10 billion, supports the Secretary of Defense, the military services, and military commanders in the field.

In practice, the distinction between the NIP and the MIP is not crystal clear, and several large "national" intelligence agencies -- including NSA, DIA, NGA, NRO -- also receive funding through the MIP.

A Defense Department Financial Management Regulation on "Intelligence Programs/Activities," dated June 2007, presents the definitions of the intelligence budget aggregations, explains their classification levels, and describes the documentation that must be submitted to Congress to justify their appropriations.


Notable new reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

"Renditions: Constraints Imposed by Laws on Torture," updated October 12, 2007:

"Director of National Intelligence Statutory Authorities: Status and Proposals," November 2, 2007:

"Burma and Transnational Crime," October 25, 2007:

"The Army's Future Combat System (FCS): Background and Issues for Congress," updated October 11, 2007:

"Coast Guard Deepwater Program: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress," updated October 10, 2007:


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

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