from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2014, Issue No. 5
January 16, 2014

Secrecy News Blog:


The White House yesterday issued Presidential Policy Directive 27 on United States Conventional Arms Transfer Policy. The text of the directive was posted on the White House web site.

"The new policy provides greater clarity and transparency with respect to U.S. goals for arms transfers and on the criteria used to make arms transfer decisions," according to a White House statement.

This is not the first time that the Obama White House has published one of its Presidential Policy Directives, but it has not done so consistently, even when the directives are unclassified.

Last month, DC District Judge Ellen Huvelle scolded the White House for withholding an unclassified directive (PPD-6) and for what she termed its "cavalier attitude" towards public disclosure. She ordered the document released. ("Court Rebukes White House Over 'Secret Law'," Secrecy News, December 18, 2013.)

President Obama has been issuing presidential directives at a discernibly slower pace than did other recent presidents, for reasons that are unclear.

Compared to President Obama's 27 directives, President George W. Bush had issued some 44 directives at this point in his second term, while President Clinton had issued 60, and President Reagan had produced over 200.

"We've talked about that," a National Security Staff official said. But an explanation for the differences was hard to pin down, the official said, except that it evidently reflects a difference in governing style and in the choice of directives as a policy instrument.


The U.S. intelligence community needs to expand the collection and analysis of open source information, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

But that recommendation ironically comes just as the CIA has terminated public and scholarly access to its open source collection of foreign news reports.

"The IC must place a greater emphasis on collecting intelligence and open-source information, including extremist-affiliated social media, to improve its ability to provide tactical warnings, especially in North Africa, the Middle East, and other areas where the U.S. has facilities under high threat," the new report said (p. 25).

"The IC should expand its capabilities to conduct analysis of open source information including extremist-affiliated social media particularly in areas where it is hard to develop human intelligence or there has been recent political upheaval," the report said.

In the past, public consumers of CIA open source reporting were able to provide a measure of analytic support as well as area expertise to policy makers.

Such public consumers contributed to "expanded participation in informed analysis of issues significant to U.S. policy interests," said the CIA's J. Niles Riddel in 1992. Back then, intelligence agencies "value[d] the work of private sector scholars and analysts who avail themselves of our material and contribute significantly to the national debate on contemporary issues such as economic competitiveness."

But today's CIA decided to cut off public and scholarly access to such material through the World News Connection, to the detriment of the "informed analysis" that public consumers might have contributed to the national debate.

The entire archive of the former World News Connection from 1995-2013 has been acquired by East View Information Services. For a subscription fee, "Researchers will still have access to over 1 million foreign newspaper articles, broadcast transcripts and datelines from Beijing, Beirut, Bogota, Cairo, Jakarta, Iraq, Mogadishu, Qatar, Ramallah, Sarajevo, Vienna, and hundreds of other spots around the world."


New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

Marine Corps Drawdown, Force Structure Initiatives, and Roles and Missions: Background and Issues for Congress, January 9, 2014:

Border Security: Immigration Inspections at Port of Entry, January 9, 2014:

Oil and Chemical Spills: Federal Emergency Response Framework, January 13, 2014:

Aereo and FilmOn X: Internet Television Streaming and Copyright Law, January 13, 2014:

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) and the Role of Congress in Trade Policy, January 13, 2014:

Privacy Protection for Customer Financial Information, January 9, 2014:

Russian Political, Economic, and Security Issues and U.S. Interests, January 9, 2014:

Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations, January 10, 2014:

Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response, January 14, 2014:


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

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