from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 99
October 14, 2008

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A newly reissued Department of Defense directive explicitly prohibits several of the more controversial interrogation techniques that have previously been practiced against suspected enemy combatants.

So, for example, the new directive states that "Use of SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape] techniques against a person in the custody or effective control of the Department of Defense or detained in a DoD facility is prohibited." Waterboarding, in which a sensation of drowning is induced, is one such SERE technique.

In another new prohibition, the directive states that "No dog shall be used as part of an interrogation approach or to harass, intimidate, threaten, or coerce a detainee for interrogation purposes."

Yet another new prohibition limits the role of psychologists advising interrogators: "Behavioral science consultants may not be used to determine detainee phobias for the purpose of exploitation during the interrogation process."

The new directive states that it simply "codifies existing DoD policies." The restrictions noted above, however, did not appear in the prior edition of this directive, dated 2005.

See "DoD Intelligence Interrogations, Detainee Debriefings, and Tactical Questioning," DoD Directive 3115.09, October 9, 2008:


At first glance, several provisions in a newly reissued Defense Department Instruction seem to offer a surprisingly forthcoming public disclosure policy to curb the steadily increasing secrecy of recent years. But on closer inspection, that is probably not the case.

"Declassification of information shall receive equal attention with classification so that information remains classified only as long as required by national security considerations," according to DoD Instruction 5200.01, entitled "DoD Information Security Program and Protection of Sensitive Compartmented Information," October 9, 2008.

This DoD requirement that declassification and classification should receive "equal attention" does not appear anywhere in the President's executive order on classification or in its implementing directive which allow agencies to prioritize declassification as they see fit.

Similarly, the new DoD Instruction dictates that "The volume of classified national security information and CUI [controlled unclassified information], in whatever format or media, shall be reduced to the minimum necessary to meet operational requirements."

No such policy on reducing the volume of secret information to the minimum is specified in the executive order or in the President's May 2008 policy on controlled unclassified information.

On second glance, however, it turns out that both of these requirements have been on the books at the Pentagon for over a decade (except for the reference to the new CUI category) in the previous version of DoD Directive 5200.01, even as secrecy has grown by leaps and bounds. In other words, these provisions have proved to be mere rhetorical gestures that do not actually constrain official secrecy policy.


DNA samples of thousands of suspected terrorists from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have been collected and preserved in a little-known U.S. government database that is intended for forensic intelligence and counterterrorism purposes.

As of 2005, seven thousand detainee samples had been processed into the Joint Federal Agencies Antiterrorism DNA Database. Ten thousand more were "inbound" at that time from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a public presentation. See "The Department of Defense DNA Registry and the U.S. Government Accounting Mission" by Brion C. Smith, August 2005 (at page 14).

The Joint Federal Agencies Antiterrorism DNA Database working group is comprised of representatives of the Department of Defense, the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community.

Disclosure of DNA and other medical information for intelligence purposes is explicitly authorized by government regulations.

"Under U.S. and international law, there is no absolute confidentiality of medical information for any person, including detainees," according to the new DoD directive 3115.09 on intelligence interrogation. "Medical information may be released for all lawful purposes... including release for any lawful intelligence or national security-related purpose."


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

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