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Secrecy News -- 12/11/03

From: Steven Aftergood <saftergood@fas.org>
Date: Thu, 11 Dec 2003 14:18:37 -0500
Fwd Date: Fri, 12 Dec 2003 14:19:50 -0500
Subject: Secrecy News -- 12/11/03

from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 107
December 11, 2003



Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet has intervened
to prevent the partial declassification of a 1968 issue of the
President's Daily Brief, overruling for the first time an
interagency panel that had ordered release of the document.

DCI Tenet invoked the authority that was granted by a March 2003
Bush executive order which permits him to block the
declassification decisions of the Interagency Security
Classification Appeals Panel.

Independent historian Peter Pesavento had requested
declassification of the President's Daily Brief (PDB) dated
November 26, 1968 because it reportedly discusses the status and
implications of the Soviet manned lunar program, a subject of
his current research interest.

Remarkably, the Interagency Security Classification Appeals
Panel (ISCAP), an executive branch body composed of
representatives of five member agencies that considers
declassification appeals, sided with Pesavento and voted in
favor of partial declassification of the requested PDB. That is,
a majority of the panel rejected the CIA's position and said the
document could be safely disclosed in part.

But then DCI Tenet stepped in to block disclosure. Exercising
the new secrecy powers granted him by President Bush for the
first time, he vetoed the ISCAP decision.

Pesavento said that, pursuant to the provisions of the executive
order, the National Archivist, an ISCAP member, has appealed the
DCI's veto to the White House. But to date, no response to the
appeal has been received from the White House. Under existing
bylaws and orders, there is no deadline for response, ever.

J. William Leonard, director of the Information Security
Oversight Office and ISCAP executive secretary, today confirmed
Pesavento's general account but said he could not discuss it in
detail because "it is a subject of pending deliberation."

Trying to imagine CIA's rationale for blocking release of the
document, Pesavento speculated that "If this PDB gets okayed for
declassification, then this will be the 'opening of the
floodgates' it is feared to all PDBs now in the LBJ
archives...and beyond...."

In fact, CIA has consistently treated PDBs as sacrosanct and
beyond the purview of ordinary mortals. Regardless of their
specific contents, the fact that the PDBs served as their
intelligence conduit to the President should render them
permanently beyond legal access and independent review, the CIA
seems to believe.

The CIA approach is far from the ideal of a threat-based
information security policy, in which classification is strictly
limited to sensitive information that could damage national
security. It represents instead a kind of fetishism on the part
of CIA officials.

Most recently, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks that
is investigating September 11 clashed with the White House over
access to PDBs, finally reaching an arrangement for limited
access by a subset of Commissioners.

President Bush this year weakened the ISCAP by giving the DCI
veto authority over the Panel's decisions to declassify CIA
records. See executive order 13292, section 5.3(f):


The CIA had challenged ISCAP in the past, but in a 1999 opinion
the Justice Department Office of Lega Counsel (OLC) determined
that ISCAP was authorized by the Preslident to declassify CIA
records over CIA objections. That authority has been drastically
curtailed by President Bush, leaving CIA free to classify, and
over-classify, at will. See the 1999 OLC opinion here:


Peter Pesavento and space expert Charles Vick of
GlobalSecurity.org are authors of a groundbreaking new study of
the Soviet lunar program. Their paper, entitled "The Moon Race
'End Game': A New Assessment of Soviet Crewed Lunar
Aspirations," will be published in Quest: The History of
Spaceflight Quarterly in three parts beginning in January 2004.



The mindless, reflexive secrecy surrounding the President's
Daily Brief (PDB) is also evident in an internal CIA memo
discussing how to respond to a request for PDBs and other
intelligence materials that were sought by requester Michael

"I don't believe we can get away with an NRL on the subject
case," the May 2002 memo states with startling candor. NRL here
stands for "no records located."

Following some impudent commentary on Ravnitzky's motives and
intentions, the CIA memo concludes by proposing redaction and
release of "specified NID/CIBs" [referring to the National
Intelligence Daily and the Central Intelligence Bulletin] while
recommending that the Agency "deny the PDBs in accordance with
out current policy."

Another CIA official concurs. "We may be in a stronger posture
to defend the PDBs if we have made a reasonable accommodation on
the CIBs."

A copy of the CIA memo on the Ravnitzky Case, marked
"Administrative - Internal Use Only," was obtained by Secrecy
News and is posted here:


Mr. Ravnitzky expressed surprise at the memo, pointing out that
he had filed his request in good faith, seeking only a small
number of specifically identified documents.

"Such intelligence briefings should be released unless their
release would cause harm to national security, or would disclose
sources and methods, or would cause some articulable harm," he
told Secrecy News.

"The CIA is handling these ... requests in such an unusual
manner because they cannot articulate any harm that would be
caused by the release of portions of these ancient and
historically invaluable daily briefings," Ravnitzky said.


"We can no longer keep our nation safe if we do not commit
ourselves to learning the languages and cultures of critical
areas around the world," said Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ).

But "more college students currently study Ancient Greek
(20,858) than Arabic (10,596), Korean (5,211), Persian (1,117),
and Pashto (14) put together," he said.

Accordingly, Rep. Holt and several colleagues this week
introduced a bill entitled the National Security Language Act
that use federal grants and other incentives "to strengthen the
national security through the expansion and improvement of
foreign language study." See:



Whole libraries of unclassified government documents
continue to quietly vanish from the public domain, as more
and more government web sites are moved behind a firewall
to an access-controlled network.

Such is the case with the Army's Reimer Digital Library, one
preeminent source of online doctrinal publications that is
"in the process of transitioning to a new website" which
will be password-protected.

Much of it is already gone, like the March 2000 Army Field
Manual 100-12 on Theater Missile Defense Operations, which
used to be here:


But those members of the public who, um, forgot their
password can still find the document here, courtesy of


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

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Steven Aftergood
Project on Government Secrecy
Federation of American Scientists
web:  www.fas.org/sgp/index.html
email: saftergood@fas.org
voice: (202) 454-4691