from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 126
December 26, 2007

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U.S. government regulations that limit disclosures of certain scientific and technical information to foreign nationals -- known as "deemed exports" -- are obsolete and need to be replaced, according to a new advisory committee report.

More broadly, however, the new report reflects the growing realization that government secrecy policies have become counterproductive and need to be recalibrated to adapt to evolving technological and geopolitical realities.

"In this new world order, a nation that attempts to build a 'wall' around its scientific and technologic communities simply denies itself the opportunity to fully benefit from the vast body of knowledge being accumulated elsewhere - and thereby virtually assures itself of an inferior competitive position in the knowledge world," the report states.

"With the important exception of a very few highly sensitive military areas, the United States is better served to partner in the global creation of knowledge than to attempt to protect the lesser body of knowledge that can be generated through purely domestic research efforts."

"Stated otherwise, protecting what we know is in most instances not the primary concern; participating in creating that body of scientific and technical knowledge that is not known is the concern."

While secrecy -- "protecting what we know" -- may still be the first instinct of those seeking to preserve the technological advantages enjoyed by the United States, the advisory committee concluded that this approach is no longer well-founded, if it ever was.

"The United States in the latter half of the 20th century was preeminent in many, probably most, fields of scientific and engineering endeavor. Today, the United States is but one among a number of nations or groups of nations competing for leadership across the spectrum of scientific and engineering disciplines. Just a few examples where other nations have already established leadership positions include polymer composites (Germany), 3D optical memories (Japan), bulk metallic glass (Japan), biostatistics/multivariate statistics (France), population biology (UK), adaptive dynamics (Germany/Switzerland), theoretical biology (Netherlands), and solar energy (Japan/Germany). Any nation today seeking to remain at the forefront of science and technology must be an active participant in the global science and technology community if it is to be successful."

"In the evolving environment, unlike the recent past, denial of access to United States-possessed knowledge can often be circumvented simply by obtaining it from others."

"The seemingly inescapable conclusion from these evolving circumstances is that the erection of high 'walls' around large segments of the nation's science and engineering knowledge base has become not only increasingly impracticable, but that attempts to build such walls are likely to prove counterproductive - not only to America's commercial prowess but also, in balance, to America's ability to defend itself."

"That is, the nation will be better served, in balance, by seeking to accelerate its own technical prowess than by seeking to deny potential enemies access to broad ranges of knowledge."

Though focused specifically on "deemed exports" and disclosures of scientific information to foreign persons, this analysis has obvious implications for the national security classification system and other restrictive information security policies.

The advisory committee, chaired by Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, was composed of various luminaries from academia, the commercial sector and the national security community. Its findings were first reported by Paul Basken in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 21.

See "The Deemed Export Rule in the Era of Globalization," submitted to the Secretary of Commerce, December 20, 2007:

"Yes, disclosing information may cause damage," said William Leonard of the Information Security Oversight Office in a valedictory interview with Newsweek this week. "But you know what, withholding that information may even cause greater damage... And I don't think we [have] sufficiently taken that into account."


If a new information security policy emerges, it's not likely to come from the Central Intelligence Agency, which still adheres to the coldest of cold war secrecy policies.

Due to CIA classification restrictions, a new State Department documentary collection on The Intelligence Community, 1950-1955 suffers from significant, basic omissions.

"Between the fiscal years ended June 30, 1947 and 1955 the total budget has increased from approximately [dollar figures not declassified]," the official history states (in document 192, the Doolittle report).

Similarly, "The number of civilian employees of the Agency under personnel ceilings has increased from [number not declassified] at June 30, 1947, to an estimated [number not declassified] for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1955."

Thus, the official government history of U.S. intelligence from 1950-1955 does not include either the budget or the size of the CIA. Instead, this half-century old information remains classified, which indicates that CIA thinks its disclosure would damage national security.

That, of course, is too silly to require refutation. All it means is that CIA's views on classification policy can safely be ignored by anyone who is not legally obliged to comply with them.

Fortunately, a good deal of the historical CIA budget information that was withheld from the State Department volume can be found in David M. Barrett's book "The CIA and Congress" (University Press of Kansas, 2005) at pages 154-156.


Secrecy News was too hasty in writing the December 20 headline that "Foreign Relations in the U.S. [was] Not Published in 2007." That turned out to be wrong.

On December 21, 2007 the State Department published two print volumes of the Foreign Relations of the United States series, along with an electronic document collection.

In addition to the Intelligence Community volume, the State Historian's Office released a FRUS volume on "Greece, Cyprus, Turkey 1973-1976"

and an online collection of documents on South Asia, 1973-1976.

It is possible to detect signs of haste in the new publications as well. For example, the South Asia online collection includes two documents (Chapter 3, documents 56 and 61) dated April 27, 1973 and August 1, 1973 that are attributed to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. But Kissinger did not assume the role of Secretary of State until September 22, 1973.


New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

"U.S. Arms Sales: Agreements with and Deliveries to Major Clients, 1999-2006," December 20, 2007:

"Overview of Education Issues and Programs in Latin America," December 19, 2007:

"Nuclear Weapons: The Reliable Replacement Warhead Program," updated December 18, 2007:

"Intelligence Estimates: How Useful to Congress?," updated December 14, 2007:

"North Korea's Nuclear Weapons: Latest Developments," updated December 5, 2007:

"Franking Privilege: Historical Development and Options for Change," December 5, 2007:


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

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