from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 5
January 16, 2009

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The President of the United States has broad and essentially unfettered authority to issue pardons for offenses against the United States, a new Congressional Research Service report on the subject explains.

"It also appears that a pardon may be revoked at any time prior to acceptance or delivery" of the warrant of pardon, according to the CRS assessment, which finds no flaw in the recent decision by President Bush "not to execute" a previously announced pardon in the case of real estate developer Isaac R. Toussie. See "An Overview of the Presidential Pardoning Power," January 7, 2009.

Some other new or newly updated CRS reports that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

"Nuclear Weapons in U.S. National Security Policy: Past, Present, and Prospects," updated December 30, 2008.

"Nuclear Arms Control: The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty," updated December 30, 2008.

"Organizing the U.S. Government for National Security: Overview of the Interagency Reform Debates," updated December 16, 2008.

"Iran's Nuclear Program: Tehran's Compliance with International Obligations," December 4, 2008.

"U.S. Military Stop Loss Program," January 8, 2009.

"Department of Defense Facilities Energy Conservation Policies and Spending," December 31, 2008.

"Congressional Commissions: Overview, Structure, and Legislative Considerations," December 19, 2008.

"Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure Sector," updated November 17, 2008.

"Covert Action: Legislative Background and Possible Policy Questions," updated December 1, 2008.


The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), a component of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, may obtain access to federal databases containing non-terrorism-related information in order to acquire information needed for authorized counterterrorism purposes, pursuant to a recent memorandum of agreement between the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General.

"NCTC will access information in such datasets identified as containing non-terrorism information... only to determine if the dataset [also] contains terrorism information," the memorandum states.

"NCTC is not otherwise permitted under these guidelines to query, use, or exploit such datasets (e.g., analysts may not 'browse' through records in the dataset that do not match a query with terrorism datapoints, or conduct 'pattern-based' queries or analyses without terrorism datapoints)," the memo directs.

The seven-page Memorandum of Agreement has not been approved for public release, but a copy was obtained by Secrecy News. It took effect on November 4, 2008.

"Most of the terrorists arrested in the U.S. have supported themselves with common criminal activities" and therefore NCTC would have a legitimate need for access to related law enforcement information, a senior intelligence official from another agency told Secrecy News.

The new memo "regularizes the process by which NCTC can access information not originally collected for intelligence purposes," the official said. It also "inserts the ODNI Civil Liberties Protection Officer into the process with an affirmative role for the first time -- I think."

The memorandum makes the ODNI Civil Liberties Protection Officer responsible for ensuring that NCTC complies with privacy guidelines when accessing non-terrorism-related databases.


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

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