The National Security Archive has posted more than a dozen declassified documents from 1991-1992 about the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG). These were prepared by the Pentagon under the Secretary of Defense of that time, Richard Cheney.
- "Prevent the Reemergence of a New Rival" The Making of the Cheney Regional Defense Strategy, 1991-1992, National Security Archive, The George Washington University, February 26, 2008.
One aspect of this release that is noteworthy is the insight it provides into government secrecy, classification and declassification, and the accuracy and completeness of the historical record. As the NSA says:
Remarkably, these new releases censor a half dozen large sections of text that The New York Times printed on March 8, 1992, as well as a number of phrases that were officially published by the Pentagon in January 1993. "On close inspection none of those deleted passages actually meet the standards for classification because embarrassment is not a legal basis for secrecy," remarked Tom Blanton, director of the Archive."
The NSA displays the language that the Times publicized side-by-side with the relevant portions of the February 18, 1992 draft that was the subject of the leak.
The documents are fascinating:
The word "preempt" does not appear in the declassified language, but Document 10 includes wording about "disarming capabilities to destroy" which is followed by several excised words. This suggests that some of the heavily excised pages in the still-classified DPG drafts may include some discussion of preventive action against threatening nuclear and other WMD programs. The excisions are currently under appeal at the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP).
Army Says It Will Restore Public Access to Online Library. by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News. Feb 21, 2008.
The U.S. Army said today that it would restore public access to the online Reimer Digital Library of Army publications, after having blocked the site on February 6.The U.S. Army said today that it would restore public access to the online Reimer Digital Library of Army publications, after having blocked the site on February 6.
The next president should open up the Bush Administration's record, By Steven Aftergood, Nieman Watchdog February 07, 2008
The next President will have the authority to declassify and disclose any and all records that reflect the activities of executive branch agencies. Although internal White House records that document the activities of the outgoing President and his personal advisers will be exempt from disclosure for a dozen years or so, every Bush Administration decision that was actually translated into policy will have left a documentary trail in one or more of the agencies, and all such records could be disclosed at the discretion of the next President.
Army Blocks Public Access to Digital Library by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News, Feb. 13, 2008.
Public access to the Reimer Digital Library, which is the largest online collection of U.S. Army doctrinal publications, has been blocked by the Army, which last week moved the collection behind a password-protected firewall.
But today the Federation of American Scientists filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the Army to provide a copy of the entire unclassified Library so that it could be posted on the FAS web site.
The Army move on February 6 marks the latest step in an ongoing withdrawal of government records from the public domain....
The move came as a surprise since only unclassified and non-sensitive records had ever been made available at the Library site.
The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), an advisory committee established by Congress to "promote the fullest possible public access to a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of significant U.S. national security decisions and activities" has released a report with recommendations on improving declassification.
- Improving Declassification, A Report To The President From The Public Interest Declassification Board December 2007.
What can be put off is put off; what can go to the end of the queue goes to the end of the queue....
What appears to be missing is a common understanding of the public interest and a common approach to effectuating it....
The tasks ahead remain daunting, and the resources needed to meet existing deadlines and workloads will never be sufficient and are under constant threat of reduction.
- Panel Urges More Openness, Less Secrecy, by Pete Yost, Associated Press, Jan 9, 2008.
Scientists oppose move to restrict satellite data, by Les Blumenthal, McClatchy Newspapers, The Tacoma, WA News Tribune, January 13, 2008
There is a little-noticed but influential government committee known as the Civil Applications Committee, which, under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Geological Survey, reviews civilian requests for classified reconnaissance information that can be useful to scientists studying volcanoes, forest fires, earthquakes and landslides, climate change, hurricanes, flooding and pollution. Now the Bush administration plans to abolish the committee and create an office within the Department of Homeland Security to review such requests.
Rep. Norm Dicks, chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee with control over the Geological Survey and is the senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a letter to administration officials:
"We believe the elimination of the civilian orientation of the Civil Applications Committee represents explicit harm in the near term to USGS and other civilian federal agencies, and it represents a potentially serious harm over the longer term to the constitutional protections U.S. citizens expect and deserve."
Library Journal Academic Newswire reports that Bassem Youssef, the Chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) unit responsible for administering two warrantless search programs, who was scheduled to discuss "a number of critical failures within the FBI's counterterrorism program undermining the basic Constitutional rights of American citizens and threatening the effectiveness of America's counterterrorism effort" on Saturday, January 12, at the ALA's Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia will now "only be allowed to answer selected questions."
The FBI cited "rules concerning prepublication clearance of any potential speech." Youssef's lawyer says that these "are not the formal rules", that the FBI has not previously published them or incorporated into employment agreements, that they are secret, that they "constitute secret censorship requirements", and that "Mr. Youssef is prevented from showing these rules to anyone outside the FBI."
- FBI Agent's ALA Midwinter Talk "Censored." Library Journal Academic Newswire, January 10, 2008.
Recently the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced the launching USASpending.gov, which is a relaunch of www.FederalSpending.gov, to provide citizens with easy access to government contract, grant, and other award data (See New OMB Federal Spending Database). But now, Secrecy News says that several defense intelligence agencies will withhold unclassified information about their contracts from USASpending.gov.
- Intel Agencies to Withhold Contract Info from Public Database by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News, December 18, 2007.
Several defense intelligence agencies will withhold unclassified information about their contracts from a new public database of government spending.
The new database at USAspending.gov is intended to provide increased transparency regarding most government contracts.
But when it comes to intelligence spending, there will actually be a net loss of public information because categories of intelligence contracting data that were previously disclosed will now be withheld.
Challenging Cheney. Newsweek Web Exclusive (Updated: 12:57 PM ET Dec 24, 2007) By Michael Isikoff.
J. William Leonard learned the hard way the perils of questioning Vice President Dick Cheney. The veteran National Archives official challenged claims by the Office of Vice President (OVP) to be exempt from federal rules governing classified information. His efforts touched off a firestorm--and a counter-strike by Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington, who tried to wipe out Leonard's job....
Now, Leonard is quitting as director of the Archives' Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO)--the unit that monitors the handling of government secrets. He tells NEWSWEEK that his fight with Cheney's office was a "contributing" factor in his decision to retire after 34 years of government service.
..."The global struggle that we're engaged in today is more than anything else is an ideological struggle. And in my mind....that calls for greater transparency, not less transparency."
Information Magic Eight-Ball, OMB Watch, 12/18/2007. "Over the past year, there has been a great deal of activity on issues related to government transparency and secrecy, but it can remain difficult to figure out exactly what all the discussions, reports and hearings actually mean. To try to get to the bottom of this murky issue, we are breaking out our Magic Eight-Ball of Information Policy to ask a few key questions about the past year — the progress and setbacks, laid out in simple terms. We wish there was a better approach, but unfortunately, 2007 was that kind of year for government transparency, with vague and unclear answers for most questions."