Tag Archive for Secrecy

Moynihan Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy Report 1997

The classification and personnel security systems are no longer trusted by many inside and outside the Government. It is now almost routine for American officials of unquestioned loyalty to reveal classified information as part of ongoing policy disputes—with one camp “leaking” information in support of a particular view, or to the detriment of another—or in support of settled administration policy. In the process, this degrades public service by giving a huge advantage to the least scrupulous players.

Survey of Journalists Finds Public Information Officers Often Prevent the Public From Accessing Information

The Society of Professional Journalists conducted a study for this year’s Sunshine Week surveying 146 journalists who cover federal agencies regarding the role that public affairs or public information officers play in restricting the flow of relevant information to the public. The survey found that journalists face significant obstacles in the performance of their duties due to the obstructive activities of public affairs officers. Some of these obstacles include requiring pre-approval for interviews, prohibiting interviews of certain agency employees or rerouting interview requests, and the active monitoring of interviews being conducted with agency employees. Journalists who responded to the survey found that this obstruction is preventing the public from “getting all the information it needs because of barriers agencies are imposing on journalists’ reporting practices.”

Japanese Government Denied Existence of Document on Fukushima Worst-Case Scenario

The government buried a worst-case scenario for the Fukushima nuclear crisis that was drafted last March and kept it under wraps until the end of last year, sources in the administration said Saturday. After the document was shown to a small, select group of senior government officials at the prime minister’s office in late March, the administration of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan decided to quietly bury it, the sources said. “When the document was presented (in March), a discussion ensued about keeping its existence secret,” a government source said.

Canadian Defence Department Won’t Release Photos of Taliban Detainees’ Hair

The Defence Department is prepared to go to Federal Court and spend whatever it takes to prevent the public from seeing government photos of Taliban hairdos because it believes the captured insurgents have a right to their privacy. The department’s decision, outlined in newly released documents obtained by the Citizen, is the result of a test of the Access to Information law by two Ottawa lawyers, Paul Champ and Amir Attaran. To see how far DND would go to prevent the release of information about captured Afghan insurgents, Attaran requested copies of photographs the military took of such individuals but asked that the faces of the prisoners be completely blacked out and that only the hairdos of the detainees shown.

White House Refuses to Inform Lawmakers About Drone Operations

Tensions are quietly increasing between the White House and some congressional leaders over access to sensitive information about the government’s use of drones in Pakistan and Yemen, officials said. The White House has brushed aside requests for information from lawmakers, who argue that the strikes, carried out secretly by the Central Intelligence Agency and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, have broad implications for U.S. policy but don’t receive adequate oversight. Some current and former administration, military and congressional officials point to what they see as significant oversight gaps, in part because few lawmakers have full access to information about the drone strikes.

Police Around U.S. Encrypting Radio Communications to Prevent Public Monitoring

Police departments around the country are moving to shield their radio communications from the public as cheap, user-friendly technology has made it easy for anyone to use handheld devices to keep tabs on officers responding to crimes. The practice of encryption has become increasingly common from Florida to New York and west to California, with law enforcement officials saying they want to keep criminals from using officers’ internal chatter to evade them. But journalists and neighborhood watchdogs say open communications ensure that the public receives information as quickly as possible that can be vital to their safety. D.C. police became one of the latest departments to adopt the practice this fall. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said recently that a group of burglars who police believe were following radio communications on their smartphones pulled off more than a dozen crimes before ultimately being arrested and that drug dealers fled a laundromat after a sergeant used his radio to call in other officers — suggesting that they, too, might have been listening in.

White House “WikiLeaks” Executive Order on Improving Security of Classified Networks

This order directs structural reforms to ensure responsible sharing and safeguarding of classified information on computer networks that shall be consistent with appropriate protections for privacy and civil liberties. Agencies bear the primary responsibility for meeting these twin goals. These structural reforms will ensure coordinated interagency development and reliable implementation of policies and minimum standards regarding information security, personnel security, and systems security; address both internal and external security threats and vulnerabilities; and provide policies and minimum standards for sharing classified information both within and outside the Federal Government. These policies and minimum standards will address all agencies that operate or access classified computer networks, all users of classified computer networks (including contractors and others who operate or access classified computer networks controlled by the Federal Government), and all classified information on those networks.

Majority of 9/11 Commission Records, Including Bush and Cheney Interview Transcript, Remain “Indefinitely” Sealed

Ten years after al Qaeda’s attack on the United States, the vast majority of the 9/11 Commission’s investigative records remain sealed at the National Archives in Washington, even though the commission had directed the archives to make most of the material public in 2009, Reuters has learned. The National Archives’ failure to release the material presents a hurdle for historians and others seeking to plumb one of the most dramatic events in modern American history. The 575 cubic feet of records were in large part the basis for the commission’s public report, issued July 22, 2004. The commission, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, was established by Congress in late 2002 to investigate the events leading up to the 9/11 attacks, the pre-attack effectiveness of intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the government’s emergency response.

Council of Europe Draft Resolution on Abuse of State Secrecy and National Security

The Assembly considers that judicial and parliamentary scrutiny of government and its agents is of vital importance for the rule of law and democracy. This also applies especially to so-called special services whose activities are usually kept secret. Security and intelligence services, the need for which cannot be put into doubt, must nonetheless not become a “state within the state”, exempted from accountability for their actions. Such lack of accountability leads to a dangerous culture of impunity, which undermines the very foundations of democratic institutions.

Controversy Over DoD’s Proposed Rule to Assume Secrecy of Unclassified Information

Last November, the Obama Administration issued an executive order on “Controlled Unclassified Information” that was intended to reverse “unnecessarily restrictive dissemination policies” involving unclassified information and to “emphasize… openness.” Among other things, the order was intended to eliminate the thicket of improvised access controls on unclassified information (such as “for official use only” and so forth) and to authorize restrictions on access only where required by law, regulation or government-wide policy. But last month the Department of Defense issued a proposed new rule that appears to subvert the intent of the Obama policy by imposing new safeguard requirements on “prior designations indicating controlled access and dissemination (e.g., For Official Use Only, Sensitive But Unclassified, Limited Distribution, Proprietary, Originator Controlled, Law Enforcement Sensitive).”

Fusion Center Locations Revealed

Since 9/11, the U.S. Government has engaged in a multibillion-dollar effort to construct a domestic intelligence network for the ostensible purpose of combating terrorism, criminal activity and violent extremism. One of the central components of this system is the network of “fusion centers” that have sprung up around the country over the last several years. These entities integrate local law enforcement with a state’s police force, Department of Justice, or Office of Emergency Management and are designed to facilitate law enforcement intelligence activities throughout the jurisdiction, providing federal authorities access to local information and databases, while simultaneously allowing federal agencies to disseminate classified intelligence materials to local authorities. There are almost always federal representatives present in local fusion centers and Secretary Napolitano has recently testified that DHS is “committed to having an officer in each fusion center.” Most fusion centers also work with representatives of the private sector, particularly those industries related to so-called “critical infrastructure and key resources.”

MI6 Chief Gives First Public Speech in Agency’s History

In the first public speech by a serving head of the MI6, the U.K.’s foreign spy agency, Sir John Sawers said fighting terrorism is the agency’s top focus and condemned the use of torture in gathering intelligence. “The most draining aspect of my job is reading, every day, intelligence reports describing the plotting of terrorists who are bent on maiming and murdering people in this country,” Sir John told the Society of Editors here, in a televised address. He said more than a third of MI6’s resources were directed at counterterrorism—the first time the agency had publicly given even that scant detail about resources. The 30-minute speech touched on a range of topics, including the threat of terrorism from places such as Yemen, Somalia and North Africa as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Fed Shouldn’t Reveal Crisis Loans, Banks Vow to Tell High Court

The biggest U.S. commercial banks will take their fight against disclosure of Federal Reserve lending in 2008 to the Supreme Court if necessary, the top lawyer for an industry-owned group said. Continued legal appeals will delay or block the first public look at details of the central bank’s $2 trillion in emergency lending during the 2008 financial crisis. The Clearing House Association LLC, a group that includes Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., joined the Fed in defense of a lawsuit brought by Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, seeking release of records related to four Fed lending programs. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled March 19 that the central bank must release the documents. A three-judge panel of the appellate court rejected the Fed’s argument that disclosure would stigmatize borrowers and discourage banks from seeking emergency help.

Secret Banking Cabal Emerges From AIG Shadows

The idea of secret banking cabals that control the country and global economy are a given among conspiracy theorists who stockpile ammo, bottled water and peanut butter. After this week’s congressional hearing into the bailout ofAmerican International Group Inc., you have to wonder if those folks are crazy after all. Wednesday’s hearing described a secretive group deploying billions of dollars to favored banks, operating with little oversight by the public or elected officials.

Federal Reserve Seeks to Protect U.S. Bailout Secrets

The Federal Reserve asked a U.S. appeals court to block a ruling that for the first time would force the central bank to reveal secret identities of financial firms that might have collapsed without the largest government bailout in U.S. history. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan will decide whether the Fed must release records of the unprecedented $2 trillion U.S. loan program launched after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. In August, a federal judge ordered that the information be released, responding to a request by Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News. “This case is about the identity of the borrower,” said Matthew Collette, a lawyer for the government, in oral arguments today. “This is the equivalent of saying ‘I want all the loan applications that were submitted.’”