from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 40
May 17, 2010

Secrecy News Blog:


A long-term, bipartisan effort to eliminate the Senate custom of using "secret holds" to anonymously block pending legislation or nominations was scuttled just as it was on the verge of approval last Thursday after Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) attempted to insert an unrelated amendment at the last minute.

"I cannot recall another instance where the cause of open government took a beating, took a blindsiding, like the cause of open government took this afternoon," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who led the initiative, along with Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and others. Their proposal would generally have required Senators to file a notice of intent whenever they had an objection to Senate proceedings.

"We did not win this afternoon because I think we got kneecapped," said Sen. Wyden. "I do not know how to describe it any other way."

"I can tell you, I have never seen anything like this in my time in the Senate: one Senator coming in, at the last moment, with no notice, trying to derail the cause of open government," an angry Sen. Wyden said May 13.

A spokesman for Sen. DeMint told the Washington Post that it was not his intent to block the reform of secret holds, but only to get a vote on his own measure, and that he too supported an end to secret holds. ("Senate's attempt for more open government may fail again, thanks to Sen. DeMint," Washington Post editorial, May 17).

The practice of secret holds is "one of the most pernicious, most antidemocratic practices in government," said Sen. Wyden.

Only one Senator has publicly disagreed. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-VA) said that in his view, "there are situations when it is appropriate and even important for Senators to raise a private objection to the immediate consideration of a matter with the leadership and to request a reasonable amount of time to try to have concerns addressed."


A new Department of Defense policy memorandum requires the videotaping of intelligence interrogations of prisoners in DoD custody, including interrogations that are performed by the Central Intelligence Agency. "As a condition of having access to conduct strategic intelligence interrogations, individuals representing other U.S. Government agencies, interagency mobile interrogation teams, and foreign governments must comply with this [policy] when conducting strategic intelligence interrogations," the DoD memorandum states. See "Videotaping or Otherwise Electronically Recording Strategic Intelligence Interrogations of Persons in the Custody of the Department of Defense," Directive-Type Memorandum (DTM) 09-031, May 10, 2010:

Background on recent upheaval in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan is presented in "The April 2010 Coup in Kyrgyzstan: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests," Congressional Research Service, May 7, 2010:

The nuclear research reactors that were constructed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory during its 66-year history, only one of which is still operational, were described and illustrated in "An Account of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Thirteen Nuclear Reactors" by Murray W. Rosenthal, August 2009 (revised March 2010):

Intelligence community policy on preparing independent cost estimates in support of the National Intelligence Program budget was set forth in "Independent Cost Estimates," Intelligence Community Directive (ICD) 109, April 26, 2010:

The U.S. Army's vision of the future development of unmanned aircraft systems for situational awareness and combat operations was presented in "U.S. Army Roadmap for UAS 2010-2035," April 2010:


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

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