from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2011, Issue No. 10
January 31, 2011

Secrecy News Blog:


Last Wednesday, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) read excerpts from a classified U.S. State Department cable on the House floor. The cable was written in 1990 by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie and described her conversation with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein shortly prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. It was released January 1 by WikiLeaks.

Since the cable specified that its "entire text" is classified secret, this means that by reading a brief passage or two from the document, Rep. Paul was technically publicizing classified information and introducing it into the Congressional Record.

This action was not nearly comparable in significance or audacity to Sen. Mike Gravel reading the Pentagon Papers into the public record in 1971. It would hardly be noteworthy at all except for the contrast it presents with current congressional guidance to avoid the material released by WikiLeaks altogether. The Senate Office of Security, for example, has directed that Senate employees should not even visit the WikiLeaks website, much less circulate its contents.

Like other members of the House of Representatives, Rep. Paul has taken an oath (under House Rule XXIII, clause 13) that "I will not disclose any classified information received in the course of my service with the House of Representatives, except as authorized by the House of Representatives or in accordance with its Rules."

Presumably, Rep. Paul could say that he did not receive the classified cable "in the course of my service with the House of Representatives" and that it is therefore outside the scope of his oath.

"The secrecy of the [Glaspie cable] was designed to hide the truth from the American people and keep our government from being embarrassed," Rep. Paul said, assigning malicious intent to the classification of the document.

But since many unembarrassing and uninformative documents are also classified, a better explanation might be that the application of classification controls today is indiscriminately broad, and that classification status is not a reliable indicator of sensitivity.


Judging from appearances, the conduct of congressional oversight of intelligence is usually professional, placid and rather dull. Just beneath the surface, however, the process is sometimes filled with tension, conflict and human foible.

In her day, Diane S. Roark, a Republican staffer on the House Intelligence Committee from 1985 to 2003, elicited an impressive amount of hostility from intelligence agencies. Last year, her name surfaced again in connection with the pending prosecution of former National Security Agency official Thomas Drake, who was charged with unlawful retention of national defense information.

"Regarding Congressional oversight, Members of Congress were supportive" of intelligence, said former NSA deputy director Barbara McNamara in a December 15, 2003 statement to the 9/11 Commission. "But while some staffers were good, some staffers were overly intrusive and vindictive."

Diane Roark fell in the latter category, as far as Ms. McNamara was concerned. "Ms. Rourke [sic] would form alliances with individuals in the IC and have them serve as her spies. These spies were easy to spot -- they were people who really believed in their own programs as being the best and needing support from Congress," Ms. McNamara said.

One of those purported alliances, it later turned out, was with Thomas Drake. According to the April 2010 indictment of Mr. Drake, he "had a self-described 'close, emotional friendship' and 'different and special' relationship with Person A [i.e., Ms. Roark] that included the unauthorized disclosure of unclassified and classified information to [Ms. Roark] while [Ms. Roark] worked as a congressional staffer and after [Ms. Roark's] retirement in May 2002."

Their relationship was based on shared values, her attorney told the Washington Post. "He was very concerned about waste and mismanagement and so was she." ("Act of honor, or betrayal?" by Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, July 14, 2010).

Ms. Roark's concerns and her actions won her a visit from the FBI in July 2007. FBI agents seized "emails and other items" from her residence, according to a recent status report in the Drake prosecution. She is not charged with any crime.

House Intelligence Committee chairman (and later DCIA) Porter J. Goss praised Ms. Roark's career performance in a March 20, 2002 floor statement.

"Diane is known as a very dedicated, tough-minded program monitor who digs into the issues and forces agencies to see and understand what they sometimes miss themselves. She is also known as a very knowledgeable taskmaster, and her arrival at an agency is often anticipated with apprehension," Mr. Goss said.

"I think that this is the type of oversight capability that the American people are entitled to and should demand. I cannot think of any greater tribute for Diane than knowing that agency leaders throughout the community recognize that her instincts and assessments are sound," he said.

But from the perspective of Ms. McNamara of the NSA, "There is a fine line between what is professional disagreement and what is personal animosity."

Some recently published resources on congressional oversight of intelligence include the following.

"Intelligence Issues for Congress," Congressional Research Service, updated January 20, 2011:

"Legal Perspectives on Congressional Notification," hearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, October 22, 2009 (published December 2010):

"Congress's Right to Counsel in Intelligence Oversight" by Kathleen Clark, University of Illinois Law Review (forthcoming):


The DNI Open Source Center has produced an updated directory of North Korean diplomatic missions in Europe and Central Asia.

"The directory includes photos, when available, of overseas diplomatic personnel as well as such standard information as facility addresses, phone and fax numbers, and e-mail addresses. Personnel changes and new ambassadorial appointments also have been noted when relevant."

A copy was obtained by Secrecy News. See "North Korea-- 2010 Overseas Diplomatic Directory for Europe and Central Asia," Open Source Center, December 29, 2010:


The Congressional Research Service is not equipped to provide up-to-the-minute coverage of current news events, like the continuing upheaval in Egypt. But CRS does provide deeply researched background on factual matters including U.S. economic and military aid to Egypt, as well as a detailed account of many aspects of U.S.-Egypt political relations. See the newly updated report "Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations," January 28, 2011:

On events in Tunisia, see "Tunisia: Recent Developments and Policy Issues," January 18, 2011:


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

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