from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 116
November 15, 2012

Secrecy News Blog:


Over the objections of its authors, the Department of Homeland Security classified a 2007 report from the National Academy of Sciences on the potential vulnerability of the U.S. electric power system until most of it was finally released yesterday.

The report generally concluded, as other reports have, that the electric grid is lacking in resilience and is susceptible to disruption not only from natural disasters but also from deliberate attack.

But even though the report was written for public release, the entire document was classified by DHS and could not be made available for public deliberation. Amazingly, it took five years for the classification decision to be reviewed and reversed. As Academy leaders explained in the Foreword to the report:

"DHS concluded that the report would be classified in its entirety under the original classification authority vested in the DHS undersecretary for science and technology. Because the committee believed that the report as submitted contained no restricted information, the NRC [National Research Council] requested the formal classification guidance constituting the basis for the classification decision. That guidance was not provided, and so in August 2010, the NRC submitted a formal request for an updated security classification review. Finally, in August 2012, the current full report was approved for public release, reversing the original classification decision, except that several pages of information deemed classified are available to readers who have the necessary security clearance."

"We regret the long delay in approving this report for public release," wrote Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, and Charles M. Vest, president of the National Academy of Engineering in the Foreword.

"We understand the need to safeguard security information that may need to remain classified," they wrote. "But openness is also required to accelerate the progress with current technology and implementation of research and development of new technology to better protect the nation from terrorism and other threats."

They said that a workshop was planned to address changes that have occurred since the report was completed in 2007. See "Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System," National Research Council, released November 14, 2012:

Classification policy at the Department of Homeland Security has become somewhat more streamlined lately as a result of the Obama Administration's Fundamental Classification Guidance Review.

Of the Department's 74 security classification guides, 45 were revised and 16 were cancelled. Overall, 157 subtopics that had been classified -- and that could be used to justify classification of DHS records -- "were determined to no longer require classification," according to the DHS final report on the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review of July 16, 2012.


New or newly updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

Privacy: An Abbreviated Outline of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping, October 9, 2012:

Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping, October 9, 2012:

Privacy: An Overview of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, October 9, 2012:

Privacy: An Abridged Overview of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, October 9, 2012:

Federal Laws Relating to Cybersecurity: Discussion of Proposed Revisions, November 9, 2012:

Medical Marijuana: The Supremacy Clause, Federalism, and the Interplay Between State and Federal Laws, November 9, 2012:

The Budget Control Act of 2011: Budgetary Effects of Proposals to Replace the FY2013 Sequester, November 9, 2012:

El Salvador: Political and Economic Conditions and U.S. Relations, November 9, 2012:

The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues, November 9, 2012:

Trade Preferences: Economic Issues and Policy Options, November 14, 2012:

The Distribution of Household Income and the Middle Class, November 13, 2012:


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

The Secrecy News blog is at:

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, go to:


OR email your request to

Secrecy News is archived at:

SUPPORT the FAS Project on Government Secrecy with a donation here: