from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 12
February 4, 2009

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Department of Defense intelligence agencies were told last week to consider granting requests from the congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) for access to classified foreign intelligence information.

A new DoD directive states explicitly for the first time that GAO requests for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information may be granted.

"Although the Comptroller General may be prevented from compelling access to this information, such information should not be denied categorically. Such information may be furnished to GAO representatives having a legitimate need to know. Therefore, denials of access to such information must be carefully considered and supported legitimately."

See "Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Comptroller General Requests for Access to Records," Department of Defense Instruction 7650.01, January 27, 2009 (at page 6).

As of last year, 1000 GAO analysts held top secrecy security clearances and 73 were cleared for intelligence information (Secrecy News, "GAO and Intelligence Oversight," August 4, 2008).

GAO access to intelligence information has long been a subject of dispute and controversy. By law (31 U.S.C. 716d), the Comptroller General who directs the GAO cannot compel executive branch agencies to disclose intelligence information. The Central Intelligence Agency has generally refused to cooperate with GAO auditors, while defense intelligence agencies have historically been somewhat more forthcoming.

Using GAO analysts to audit intelligence agency operations potentially offers a way to augment and improve congressional oversight of intelligence, the Federation of American Scientists and others have argued.

A bill to affirm the role of GAO in intelligence oversight was introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) in the last Congress.

"It is my strong belief that the Intelligence Community could benefit from the Government Accountability Office's expertise in reviewing organizational transformations and management reforms," Sen. Akaka said at a Senate hearing on the subject last year.


The House of Representatives yesterday passed the Reducing Overclassification Act, a bill that would require the Department of Homeland Security to prepare unclassified versions of intelligence reports that are likely to be of use to first responders and other non-federal officials. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Jane Harman, would also mandate improved oversight and training in order to combat overclassification at DHS.

"Though hard to believe, sheriffs and police chiefs cannot readily access the information they need to prevent or disrupt a potential terrorist attack because those at the Federal level resist sharing information," Rep. Harman said. "Over-classification and pseudo-classification, which is stamping with any number of sensitive-but-unclassified markings, remain rampant."


A Central Intelligence Agency publication on the analysis of insurgencies that has often been cited but not widely circulated was recently released by CIA under the Freedom of Information Act.

"This pamphlet contains key definitions and analytic guides applicable to any insurgency.... Among other things, this guide is designed to assist in conducting a net assessment of the overall status or progress of a specific conflict," the document states.

The CIA "Guide to the Analysis of Insurgency" is undated, but may have been written in the 1980s.

U.S. military intelligence agencies should follow the lead of Federal Express and other corporations and use "operations research" tools to guide their investment decisions and resource allocations, according to a new study by the Defense Science Board. See "Operations Research Applications for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance," January 2009:

The Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency (AF ISR Agency) is a little-known successor of the former Air Intelligence Agency, and its mission is described in this January 27, 2009 Air Force directive:


Harold C. Relyea, a scholar of American government at the Congressional Research Service, retired on January 30 after 37 years of government service.

When I first started exploring government secrecy policy quite a few years ago, the writings of Harold Relyea were some of the first and some of the most informative things that I found to read. He showed how secrecy had deep roots in American history, and he explained that national security classification functioned as a bureaucratic "system" with well-defined rules and procedures as well as characteristic problems. It followed that the system could be confronted and challenged when necessary.

By its nature, most of Dr. Relyea's work for Congress was invisible to the public. Its impact, though sometimes profound, was not broadly advertised. But he leaves a lasting imprint on the published record.

At the request of the Church Committee that investigated the U.S. intelligence community in the mid-1970s, he authored "The Evolution and Organization of the Federal Intelligence Function: A Brief Overview (1776-1975)," which appeared in Book VI of the Committee's Final Report (and which was also published independently).

Among numerous other works of enduring value, he prepared a book-length 1974 report on "National Emergency Powers." A recent, abbreviated version of the same title is here:

One of his last major reports for CRS explored "Security Classified and Controlled Information," expertly describing the management challenges posed by the parallel classified and "sensitive but unclassified" information security regimes.

Another report he wrote on "Presidential Advisers' Testimony Before Congressional Committees" was memorably utilized by the 9/11 Commission to cajole testimony from reluctant Bush Administration officials.

Dr. Relyea authored several books, notably including "Silencing Science" (1994), which examined national security controls on scientific communication. He also found time -- during his off-hours, no doubt -- to answer questions from interested members of the public concerning secrecy policy and related topics.

We thank him and wish him well.


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

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