from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 46
June 3, 2010

Secrecy News Blog:


In a move that may help to discourage habitual secrecy in military-funded research, the Department of Defense last week reaffirmed a Reagan-era policy that the products of fundamental scientific research should normally be unrestricted. However, the policy also said that if national security required imposing controls on such research, then formal classification was the only permissible means of doing so.

"The Department of Defense fully supports free scientific exchanges and dissemination of research results to the maximum extent possible," wrote Under Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter in a May 24, 2010 memo to the military service secretaries, first reported by Inside the Pentagon.

"I have determined that additional clarifying guidance is required to ensure the DoD will not restrict disclosure of the results of fundamental research... unless such research efforts are classified for reasons of national security," he wrote. It is not evident why such "additional clarifying guidance" was deemed necessary or what prompted the memo last week.

The guidance closely follows and reinforces the policy that was first enunciated in President Reagan's National Security Decision Directive 189, and then elaborated in a 2008 DoD memorandum, which is nearly identical to the latest Carter memo. Both documents were included as attachments to the new memo.

"NSDD 189 makes clear that the products of fundamental research are to remain unrestricted to the maximum extent possible," Under Secretary Carter noted. "When control is necessary for national security reasons, classification is the only appropriate mechanism. The DoD will place no other restrictions on the conduct or reporting of unclassified fundamental research, except as otherwise required by applicable federal statutes, regulations, or executive orders."

Moreover, he ordered, DoD program managers should actively avoid getting their research entangled in export controls or other potential restrictions on public disclosure. "Unclassified contracted fundamental research awards should not be structured, managed or executed in such a manner that they become subject to controls under U.S. statutes and regulations, including U.S. export control laws and regulations," Dr. Carter wrote.

"The performance of contracted fundamental research also should not be managed in a way that it becomes subject to restrictions on the involvement of foreign researchers or publication restrictions," he added, echoing similar language from a 2008 policy memo.


I mistakenly wrote that a 2009 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on the development of the 2004 intelligence reform legislation had not been published on the ODNI web site ("A Look Back at Intelligence Reform," Secrecy News, June 1). In fact, it was posted by ODNI last year.

The report is not mentioned on the ODNI list of reports and publications. Nor can it be located through a google search (since the document is not text-based) and the title is not indexed anywhere on the site. So I inferred that it wasn't there. But it turns out that it can be found through the ODNI home page (in a somewhat attenuated 12.5 MB file) by looking under "About the IC" and clicking "IRTPA & IC Reform," which takes you here:

Not a correction but a late addition: Josh Gerstein of Politico has a first look at the summary of a new report from the President's Intelligence Advisory Board on the role of the Director of National Intelligence. See "Panel found 'distracted' DNI," Politico, June 2:


In 1992, the Department of Energy performed what may have been the most thoughtful and self-critical assessment of classification policy that any government agency has ever carried out. It is now available online.

"This study represents the first fundamental review of classification policy for nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon-related information since the Atomic Energy Act became law [in 1946]," wrote George L. McFadden, then-director of the DOE Office of Security Affairs. It laid the foundation for the subsequent revision of specific classification practices in the 1995 Fundamental Classification Policy Review and other reforms.

The study asked basic questions -- What is the purpose of classification (specifically, of nuclear weapons information)? What is wrong with the status quo? How can it be improved? -- and then it considered various answers to these questions. Many of the questions, and a few of the answers, are still valid today. And the study as a whole remains impressive as a model for taking a "fresh look" at classification activity, especially at a time when the National Security Advisor is gathering recommendations for "a more fundamental transformation of the security classification system."

The 1992 DOE study predated the world wide web, and as far as I know it has not previously been published online. A copy is now posted on the Federation of American Scientists web site. See "Classification Policy Study," U.S. Department of Energy, July 4, 1992:


The DNI Open Source Center recently prepared a pictorial profile of members of the Cabinet of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan who were appointed in December 2009 by King Abdallah II. (The bios of the Cabinet members are derived from reporting in the Jordan Times.) A copy was obtained by Secrecy News. See "Jordanian Cabinet," Open Source Center, March 24, 2010:


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

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