from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2016, Issue No. 99
December 6, 2016

Secrecy News Blog:


The enduring problem of overclassification and the challenge of effective declassification are the subject of two public events this week.

The House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), will hold a hearing on Wednesday, December 7 on "examining the costs of overclassification on transparency and security." The witnesses include former Information Security Oversight Director Bill Leonard, National Security Archive director Tom Blanton, Scott Amey of the Project on Government Oversight, and myself.

The Public Interest Declassification Board, chaired by Prof. Trevor Morrison, will hold a meeting on Thursday, December 8 to discuss potential changes that could be adopted in a future executive order on classification. More information, including advance copies of several presentations to be made at the meeting, can be found here:


The "disruptive" character of the Trump transition is already keeping the analysts and lawyers at the Congressional Research Service busy.

One new CRS analysis responds to the question of whether the employment of Trump family members in the transition or the Administration would violate the federal law against nepotism, which generally prohibits the hiring of relatives to government jobs. The answer is not crystal clear, for several reasons explained in the new analysis. It may be that an otherwise prohibited appointment would be permitted, for example, if the appointee forgoes compensation. See The Federal Anti-Nepotism Statute: Limits on Appointing, Hiring, and Promoting Relatives, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 1, 2016:

Could President Trump simply withdraw the United States from the international Paris Agreement on climate change? Again, the answer is murky. "Historical practice would appear to suggest that, because the Paris Agreement is an executive agreement, domestic law would allow the President to unilaterally withdraw from the Agreement without approval from the legislative branch." On the other hand, maybe not. See Can the President Withdraw from the Paris Agreement?, CRS Legal Sidebar, December 5, 2016:

Another CRS brief examines the waiver that would be needed if General (ret.) James Mattis were to serve as Secretary of Defense, a departure from the normal principle of civilian control of the military. "CRS has been able to identify [only] one instance of Congress acting to waive this provision," namely in response to President Truman's 1950 nomination of Gen. George C. Marshall to be Secretary of Defense. See Waiver of Statutory Qualifications Relating to Prior Military Service of the Secretary of Defense, CRS Insight, December 1, 2016:

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

European Union Efforts to Counter Disinformation, CRS Insight, December 1, 2016:

Fidel Castro's Death: Implications for Cuba and U.S. Policy, CRS Insight, December 2, 2016:

Iran Nuclear Agreement, updated December 5, 2016:

Internet Sales and State Taxes: Policy Issues, CRS Insight, December 1, 2016:

Social Security Primer, updated December 5, 2016:

An Introduction to Judicial Review of Federal Agency Action, December 5, 2016:


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

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