05/04 SECRECY NEWS from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy Volume 2004, Issue No. 44 May 12, 2004

** PHOTOS OF IRAQI PRISONER ABUSE SOUGHT UNDER FOIA
** DETENTION AT GUANTANAMO: LEGALLY UNCHARTED TERRITORY
** DSB ON UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES
** URBAN SUNRISE
** FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AROUND THE WORLD

PHOTOS OF IRAQI PRISONER ABUSE SOUGHT UNDER FOIA

Photographic images of torture of Iraqi prisoners held in U.S. custody, abhorrent as they are, cannot legitimately be “classified” as national security secrets, the Federation of American Scientists argued in a Freedom of Information Act request for the images today.

Classification of criminal activity such as torture is precluded by executive order, specifically section 1.7 of EO 13292.

In any case, “Disclosure of the requested information is a prerequisite to achieving full accountability for the abuses documented,” FAS wrote in a FOIA request to the Department of Defense.

The photos were classified by the Pentagon, said John Ullyot, a spokesman for Sen. John Warner, and “only military officials can decide to declassify and release them.” (Washington Times, May 11).

National security secrecy aside, other grounds could exist for withholding or modifying the images. These might include the personal privacy of the victims, as well as concerns relating to the prosecution of individual perpetrators and/or the identification of intelligence officers under cover.

Public release of the photographs would raise “serious questions about people's rights, as well as our ability to be able to prosecute,” said Vice President Dick Cheney in an interview with Fox News May 11.

“We wouldn't want […] to allow guilty parties off the hook, so that they couldn't be prosecuted. By the same token, you don't want to see innocent people inappropriately maligned by virtue of the release of photographs. So it's got to be handled in an intelligent, responsible fashion,” the Vice President said.

But such concerns could be resolved by “sanitizing” the images. There does not seem to be any legal basis for categorically classifying or otherwise withholding all of them.

A copy of the May 12 Freedom of Information Act request is here:

www.fas.org/sgp/news/2004/05/sa051204.pdf

DETENTION AT GUANTANAMO: LEGALLY UNCHARTED TERRITORY

The fact that the Bush Administration has embarked on an extraordinary, legally questionable course of action in its handling of detainees at Guantanamo Bay has elicited concern even within the U.S. military, which still shelters an admirable diversity of opinion.

“With the decision to transfer Al Qaeda and Taliban captives to detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, the Pentagon headed into legally uncharted territory,” wrote Pamela M. von Ness in a research paper published by the U.S. Army War College last year.

“The military has undertaken an unprecedented prisoner operation with an undetermined end-state.”

The author's critique is her own; it is not an official view. But it reflects a real and growing concern about the government's apparent disregard of international norms.

“Thirty years ago, American prisoners of war were being brutalized in North Vietnam, and an outraged American Government sought to shame their captors into respecting the Geneva Conventions. It reminds us that the issue is not about whether we sympathize with accused terrorists. It is about protecting a set of rules that protect all people, including American service men and women taken captive in war.”

See “Guantanamo Detainees: National Security or Civil Liberties,” by Pamela M. von Ness, U.S. Army War College Strategy Research Project, April 2003:

www.fas.org/man/eprint/vonness.pdf

DSB ON UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) “have at last come of age,” according to an enthusiastic new assessment from the Defense Science Board (DSB).

“There is no longer any question of the technical viability or operational utility of UAVs,” the authors wrote.

Yet “the overall pace of introduction has been slow. Indeed, as of early summer 2003, only 175 UAVs of Pioneer/Shadow-size or larger were operational throughout the DoD…”

Some UAV performance goals remain elusive.

“High altitude, long endurance, deep penetration, stealthy ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] is the most difficult of all possible UAV missions,” the DSB observed.

“This 'holy grail' has been pursued in many different, classified programs over the past 25 years and, for one reason or another, each program has been terminated.”

See “Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Uninhabited Combat Aerial Vehicles,” February 2004 (80 pages, 850 KB PDF file):

www.fas.org/irp/agency/dod/dsb/uav.pdf

URBAN SUNRISE

Urban Sunrise is not a new perfume. It is the name of an ambitious DARPA-funded program to develop intelligence-based simulations of military operations in urban environments that will permit analysts to anticipate military outcomes.

“The complexity of urban areas poses both analytic and operational challenges that are addressed by the Urban Sunrise capabilities,” a recent report on the initiative said.

Among such challenges is “the need for greater cultural awareness of the urban battlespace including the intangible information and cognitive infrastructures that describe the flows of information across the urban terrain, and the perceptions and beliefs of civil, government and military populations.”

See the initial report on “Urban Sunrise,” sponsored by DARPA, February 2004 (182 pages, 4 MB PDF file):

www.fas.org/man/eprint/urban.pdf

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AROUND THE WORLD

More than 50 countries have now enacted freedom of information laws, and more than half of these laws were passed in the last decade, according to an updated survey prepared by David Banisar and published today on the website freedominfo.org.

See “Freedom of Information and Access to Government Records Around the World” by David Banisar:

www.freedominfo.org/survey.htm

_______________________________________________

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

SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy Volume 2004, Issue No. 42
May 5, 2004

** TORTURE REPORT MAY HAVE BROKEN CLASSIFICATION RULES
** ABU GHRAIB AND THE FAILURE OF STRATEGIC INFLUENCE
** CONGRESS PERFORMED CLASSIFICATION POLICY REVIEW (OR NOT)

TORTURE REPORT MAY HAVE BROKEN CLASSIFICATION RULES

By classifying an explosive report on the torture of Iraqi prisoners as “Secret,” the Pentagon may have violated official secrecy policies, which prohibit the use of classification to conceal illegal activities.

The report, authored by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, found that “between October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility, numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees.”

“The allegations of abuse were substantiated by detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence,” Gen. Taguba wrote.

These specific observations, and the report as a whole, were classified “Secret / No Foreign Dissemination.”

Why the secrecy?

“There's clearly nothing in there that's inherently secret, such as intelligence sources and methods or troop movements,” an astute reporter noted at a Pentagon press briefing on May 4. “Was this kept secret because it would be embarrassing to the world, particularly the Arab world?”

“I do not know specifically why it was labeled Secret,” replied Gen. Peter Pace.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he did not know why it was classified, either. “You'd have to ask the classifier,” he said.

www.fas.org/sgp/news/2004/05/dod050404.html

But the classification may have been more than simply unnecessary. It might have been a violation of official policy, which forbids the use of secrecy to cover up crimes:

“In no case shall information be classified in order to … conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error [or to] prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency…,” according to Section 1.7 of Executive Order 12958, as amended by President Bush (EO 13292):

www.fas.org/sgp/bush/eoamend.html#1_7

In a lawyerly reading, the Pentagon might respond that the document was not specifically classified “in order” to conceal violations of law, even though that was the direct consequence, but for some other purpose.

The fact remains that classification served to conceal illegal activity for months, if not longer.

Furthermore, there is no effective mechanism to enforce even the executive branch's own standards and policies on classification. Rather, the Abu Ghraib torture scandal came to light through an unauthorized disclosure of classified information, for which one must be sadly grateful.

The report on torture at Abu Ghraib prison is apparently still classified. But it is now widely available on the internet, including here:

www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/reports/2004/800-mp-bde.htm

ABU GHRAIB AND THE FAILURE OF STRATEGIC INFLUENCE

Disclosure of the torture of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has dealt a profound blow to U.S. government efforts to communicate a positive, constructive message to the Islamic world.

The excellence of current communications technologies was supposed to give the U.S. an advantage in exercising influence abroad.

Instead, all of the latest technologies of global communication have been harnessed to transmit images of U.S. torture and sexual humiliation to every corner of the globe. Probably never before has such documentation of human rights abuses been disseminated so widely and so quickly.

That wasn't part of the plan.

The development of “information operations” as a tool of American foreign policy was discussed and critiqued in two research reports written last year by U.S. Army officers.

“No wizardry in communications can make bad policy decisions or actions palatable [to foreign audiences]. However, having a competent strategic influence campaign is essential to U.S. victory in the War on Terrorism,” wrote Lt. Col. Susan L. Gough.

Yet “the initial strategic influence efforts of the Bush Administration … revealed a typically American myopic viewpoint: Americans assume that other people think as they do and want the same things that American do — that other people want to be like Americans.”

See “The Evolution of Strategic Influence by Lt. Col. Susan L. Gough, U.S. Army War College, April 2003:

www.fas.org/irp/eprint/gough.pdf

In a more upbeat assessment, Col. Brad M. Ward asserted in another Army War College study that “The Department of Defense maintains very robust and relatively sophisticated influence mechanisms to inform and influence foreign audiences at the operational and tactical levels during peacetime and in war.”

See “Strategic Influence Operations — The Information Connection,” by Col. Brad M. Ward, April 2003:

www.fas.org/irp/eprint/ward.pdf

But it is not clear that the Bush Administration has a compelling message to offer the Arab world.

The new U.S.-funded Arabic satellite TV station, Al Hurra, last week included in its programming a profile of actress Goldie Hawn, “which will certainly do little to advance the cause of democracy in the Arab and Muslim worlds,” wrote independent critic Stephen Schwartz.

See “Mideast Media Mess” by Stephen Schwartz, TechCentralStation.com, May 3:

www.techcentralstation.com/050304B.html

CONGRESS PERFORMED CLASSIFICATION POLICY REVIEW (OR NOT)

Congress has completed the review of classification policy that was recommended last year by the Congressional Joint Inquiry into September 11, said Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts in a speech this week. But he may be mistaken.

The classification system is in need of significant reform, the Congressional Joint Inquiry indicated in one of its nineteen recommendations, made public in July 2003.

“Congress should … review the statutes, policies and procedures that govern the national security classification of intelligence information and its protection from unauthorized disclosure. Among other matters, Congress should consider the degree to which excessive classification has been used in the past and the extent to which the emerging threat environment has greatly increased the need for real-time sharing of sensitive information,” according to Recommendation Number 15.

That has now been accomplished, said Sen. Roberts in a May 3 speech at Kansas State University.

“Congress has implemented four [of the 19] changes: a national watch-list center, a terrorist information fusion center, oversight of the Patriot Act, and a review of classification policy.”

www.fas.org/irp/congress/2004_cr/roberts050304.html

This is “good news,” he said.

But it's not good news, because intelligence classification policy is unchanged. CIA classification practices are as arbitrary and poorly justified as ever. The Congressional review of classification, if it occurred, has left the world as it was.

However, it may not have occurred.

“I am not aware of any classification policy review having been done,” said Bill Duhnke, the staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“I think the Chairman must have misspoken,” he told Secrecy News.
_______________________________________________

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

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, send email to
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Secrecy News is archived at:
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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

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