from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2011, Issue No. 24
March 14, 2011

Secrecy News Blog:


State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley resigned yesterday facing an Obama Administration backlash against his remarks declaring the treatment of suspected leaker Pfc. Bradley E. Manning "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid."

The conditions of Private Manning's detention became the subject of controversy when his lawyer complained that Manning was being involuntarily forced to surrender his clothing to his Quantico military guards each night, supposedly in order to protect him from self-injury. Neither Manning, his attorney, nor any competent medical authority had requested any such "protection." Instead, the compulsory nudity was widely perceived as a punitive measure, prompting protests from Amnesty International, among others. (We urged the DoD Inspector General to investigate the matter, to no known effect.)

Mr. Crowley, an uncompromising critic of leaks of classified information, is no friend of Private Manning who, he said, "is in the right place" (i.e., in jail). It was the gratuitous abuse of the prisoner that he deemed "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid."

He was right. In America, the pre-trial detention of any person who has not been convicted of a crime should be beyond reproach. In the Manning case (and in too many others), it hasn't been.

Though in criticizing Defense Department detention policy Mr. Crowley was clearly outside of his bureaucratic "lane," he deserves credit for speaking out on a matter of principle. In an intelligent system of government, such views would be freely aired and honestly attended to. But it seems that there is not much place for such speech in the current Administration.

To its credit, the State Department did publish Mr. Crowley's non-retraction on its website. "My recent comments regarding the conditions of the pre-trial detention of Private First Class Bradley Manning were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discrete actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership," Mr. Crowley said. "The exercise of power in today's challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values."

That is to say, the exercise of power today is not always prudent or consistent with our laws and values. Sadly, Crowley's departure under these circumstances makes corrective action more difficult.

However, the Defense Department reportedly rescinded its forced nudity policy towards Manning. "On Friday, officials said they are again providing him with sleeping garments," the Washington Post reported.

In a new sign of public dissent from the Obama Administration's intensive pursuit of suspected leakers, former NSA official Thomas Drake, who is accused of unlawful retention of classified information, was designated as the recipient of an award for "truth-telling."

Named for the late Ron Ridenhour, who brought the My Lai massacre to public attention, "The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling is presented to a citizen, corporate or government whistleblower, investigative journalist, or organization for bringing a specific issue of social importance to the public's attention." (In previous years, but not this year, I was involved in the Award selection process.) The award to Mr. Drake will be presented in Washington, DC on April 13. Mr. Drake's Espionage Act trial is scheduled to begin on April 25.


In the wake of the ongoing publication of large volumes of classified U.S. government information by WikiLeaks, executive branch agencies are taking new steps to deter, detect and prevent the unauthorized transfer of information from classified government networks, officials said at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee last week.

In the majority of terminals connected to the DoD SIPRNet, the classified defense network, the capability to write to removable media has now been disabled. (Bradley Manning is suspected of downloading State Department cables and other classified materials from SIPRNet and writing them to a compact disk.)

"For those few machines where writing is allowed [newly installed security software] will report, in real time, each write operation," said Teresa Takai and Thomas Ferguson of the Department of Defense. "It will also report every attempt of an unauthorized write operation."

"DoD has begun to issue a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)-based identity credential on a hardened smart card... [that] will provide very strong identification of the person accessing the network and requesting data. It will both deter bad behavior and require absolute identification of who is accessing data and managing that access," they said.

Likewise, "the IC [intelligence community] plans to increase access control to critical IC information resources," said Corin R. Stone of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. "Technology can be used to control usage and limit user capabilities to perform activities such as copying, printing, or exporting data to a device."

As voluminous as the WikiLeaks disclosures are, they represent only a minuscule fraction of similar records. Even when it comes to the State Department cables, WikiLeaks didn't get everything, Amb. Patrick Kennedy told the Senate Committee. "During the period of time [that] we posted... some 250,000 cables... to the DOD SIPRNet, we [also] disseminated 2.4 million cables, 10 times as many, through other systems."

The fact is that more than 99.9% of classified documents don't leak. Now they will all be subject to enhanced security measures.


* This is Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of open government. A National Security Archive survey of agency compliance with the Freedom of Information Act found mixed and uneven progress over the past year.

* With the promotion of Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) director William J. Bosanko to the new position of NARA Agency Services Executive, the ISOO director slot -- with its responsibilities for oversight of classification and declassification policy -- is open. "We have recently begun a search effort for the ISOO Director position and are committed to filling the vacancy with someone who will maintain the balance between secrecy and openness for which ISOO is known," wrote National Archivist David S. Ferriero in a March 7 memorandum.

* Last month, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its latest (2010) unclassified annual report to Congress on the acquisition of technology relating to weapons of mass destruction and advanced conventional munitions. Unfortunately, the report is minimally informative, with little new information, and less information than is available from other sources (such as the latest IAEA report on Iran). The section on conventional weapons, included in the 2009 report, is missing altogether.

* Contributions in support of disaster relief in Japan can be made through the Red Cross and other organizations.


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

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