from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 80
October 11, 2010

Secrecy News Blog:


A White House report to Congress last week assessed "both positive and negative trends in the implementation of our Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy."

The report described the progress or lack thereof made this year towards achieving eight specified objectives. Those objectives include enhancing stability and civilian control in Pakistan, improving Pakistan's counterinsurgency capabilities, and reversing the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan, among others. (The disruption of terrorist networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan was addressed in an undisclosed classified annex.)

The report was quite candid in its judgments. "Afghan anti-corruption efforts continue to be weak." The security situation in Pakistan is "tenuous." The Pakistani military has demonstrated an "inability" to maintain control of areas it seized from insurgents. During the second quarter of this year, "the Pakistan military continued to avoid military engagements that would put it in direct conflict with Afghan Taliban or al-Qa'ida forces in North Waziristan. This is as much a political choice as it is a reflection of an under-resourced military prioritizing its targets."

Paradoxically, there is something encouraging about the new report since it indicates that U.S. government officials are not actively deluding themselves or deceiving others about the difficult realities of the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The White House report to Congress was first reported in the Wall Street Journal ("U.S. Slams Pakistani Efforts on Militants" by Adam Entous and Siobhan Gorman, October 6) but the document itself was not made readily available to the public. A copy is now posted on the Federation of American Scientists website here:


After a court issued a ruling last spring that a Yemeni detainee held in U.S. custody should be released, the opinion was briefly published in the case docket and then abruptly withdrawn for classification review. When it reappeared, reporter Dafna Linzer discovered, it was not only redacted but had been significantly altered.

"The alterations are extensive," she found. "Sentences were rewritten. Footnotes that described disputes and discrepancies in the government's case were deleted. Even the date and circumstances of [the detainee's] arrest were changed."

Yet in what seems like an insult to the integrity of the judicial process, no indication was given that the original opinion had been modified -- not just censored -- as a consequence of the classification review. ProPublica obtained both versions of the ruling and published a comparison of them, highlighting the missing or altered passages. See "In Gitmo Opinion, Two Versions of Reality" by Dafna Linzer, ProPublica (co-published with The National Law Journal), October 8:


Two histories of the early decades of MI-6, the United Kingdom's foreign intelligence service, have recently been published. "MI6: The History of the Secret Intelligence Service 1909-1949" by Keith Jeffery is the authorized version, prepared with the cooperation of the Service. "Six: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service" by Michael Smith is the unauthorized version.

Close students of intelligence history will want to read both volumes, which neatly represent the respective virtues of authorized and unauthorized history. As the authorized historian, Jeffery enjoyed privileged access to classified Service archives that no other writer is likely to obtain for years to come. But he was also subject to official restrictions on what he was permitted to publish. So, for example, he could not identify any agents who had not already been publicly identified nor could he tell their stories if doing so would result in their identification.

"Six," the unauthorized history by veteran intelligence reporter Michael Smith, ranges more widely (though it ends a decade earlier in 1939), taps into foreign archives and private, non-governmental collections, and is subject to no such prior restrictions on disclosure.

The tales of the Service's early years, now nearly a century old, are vividly told by author Smith, whose book is full of striking observations and asides. Trainspotting in World War I and the early confrontation with Soviet intelligence, among other topics, are treated in this volume, which ends at the dawn of World War II. "Six" has not yet been published in the U.S. but is available from in the UK.


Noteworthy new reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily to the public include the following.

"North Korea: Legislative Basis for U.S. Economic Sanctions," September 29, 2010:

"China's Sovereign Wealth Fund: Developments and Policy Implications," September 23, 2010:

"Defense: FY2011 Authorization and Appropriations," September 17, 2010:

"Federal Conspiracy Law: A Brief Overview," April 30, 2010:


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

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