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Secrecy News -- 05/02/01

From: Steven Aftergood <saftergood@igc.org>
Date: Wed, 02 May 2001 14:23:12 -0400
Fwd Date: Thu, 03 May 2001 00:04:15 -0400
Subject: Secrecy News -- 05/02/01

from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
May 2, 2001



Covert action involving clandestine U.S. government support of
Italian democratic parties during the 1960s was documented for
the first time in the latest volume of the State Department's
Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, released
on April 21.

The covert action program was predicated on the idea that with
sufficient financial support, "the democratic parties' appeal in
the next national election should increase and that of the
Communist Party should decrease," according to a 1965 National
Security Council document.

The newly disclosed documents on the covert action in Italy are
available here:


The complete FRUS volume in which the documents appeared (FRUS,
1964-1968, vol. XII, Western Europe) is posted here:


The covert action in Italy is one of a rather small number of
U.S. covert actions that have now been officially acknowledged.
But these are only a fraction of the number that were actually
carried out during the cold war.  There were no fewer than 163
covert actions approved during the Kennedy administration alone,
according to the State Department, and 142 covert actions during
the Johnson administration through February 1967.

See the "Note on U.S. Covert Action Programs" prepared by the
FRUS editors here:


Characteristically, the CIA resisted declassification of the
records on covert action in Italy.  Approval of their release
had to be sought from the so-called High-Level Panel, composed
of representatives from State, CIA and NSC.  This was the first
issue ever brought before the High-Level Panel (in 1998) and it
authorized disclosure of the newly published records.  In a
regrettable concession to CIA budget secrecy policy, however,
the dollar figures associated with the Italy operation were

In a sign that dissatisfaction with CIA disclosure policy is
spreading beyond the community of historians and advocates, the
CIA's reluctance to declassify old records was blasted in an
opinion column that appeared last week in the Fort Worth

"Pardon the American people for caring, but foreign affairs
isn't some abstract thing that impacts only uptight men in
expensive suits who work inside the Beltway," wrote
Star-Telegram editorial writer J.R. Labbe.

"[DCI George J.] Tenet and his minions in the spook world appear
to be arguing that this material should remain secret forever.
`Forever.' That's a long time and is unjustifiable under the
Constitution, a document that they themselves swore to protect,"
Labbe wrote.

There is of course no specific constitutional requirement to
declassify historical records.  But the CIA is in direct
violation of the U.S. Constitution when it withholds historical
budget information since there is a specific constitutional
requirement to publish an account of all expenditures "from time
to time."  The CIA's casual defiance of this provision
diminishes the power of the Constitution and is genuinely
subversive of American democracy.

See "CIA must stop sitting on historical briefings " by J.R.
Labbe in the April 26 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:



The U.S. intelligence community is belatedly recognizing that it
has failed to fully exploit the availability of open source
intelligence and that remedial steps to correct this problem
should be "a top priority for investment."

"Today, open source material of relevance to [intelligence]
analysts working in a dispersed threat environment is dauntingly
voluminous, and the Intelligence Community is not keeping up
with it," according to the "Strategic Investment Plan for
Intelligence Community Analysis" produced by the National
Intelligence Production Board (NIPB) and published this week by
the CIA.

"Open source" here refers generally to intelligence-related
information that is not classified or otherwise subject to
official access controls.  As a result it may be collected
without resort to espionage.

"The NIPB has made the development of an Intelligence Community
strategy for open source a top priority for investment and
concerted action over the next few years," the Plan states.  The
Community "also needs to exploit the Internet and other open
media more effectively and efficiently."

This represents something of an about-face for U.S.
intelligence, which in recent years has considered open sources
to be somebody else's problem.

When George Tenet was asked at his confirmation hearing in 1997
about the role of open source intelligence, he indicated that it
was not a priority. "We are an espionage organization," he said
dismissively.  Even at that time, critics said he was confusing
means (espionage) with ends (intelligence).

"I don't want to be in the position where we lead people to
believe that we are going to be the open source repository for
the entire government, or pay to develop that kind of a
capability," Mr. Tenet told Congress.  "I don't think it's our

Given DCI Tenet's negative outlook, it is no surprise that "the
Intelligence Community investment in open source... has declined
radically in recent years," according to the new Strategic Plan,
even as the utility of open source intelligence was growing by
leaps and bounds.

Under the new Plan, it appears that intelligence agencies will
now endeavor to make up for lost time, beginning this year with
development of "a Community-wide strategy for exploiting open
source material."

The Strategic Investment Plan for Intelligence Community
Analysis is available on the CIA web site or here (a 3 MB PDF



The secretive Court established by the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 was busier than ever last year,
approving an all time high of 1012 government applications for
electronic surveillance or physical search of suspected foreign
intelligence agents in the United States.

The Justice Department disclosed the contents of its calendar
year 2000 annual report to Congress today in response to a
request under the Freedom of Information Act.  The report was
filed on April 27.

The FISA Court has been controversial because, with one
exception, it has never rejected a government application for
surveillance, raising questions about the quality of the Court's
review.  Justice Department officials say that the high approval
rate simply reflects their rigorous preparation of the
application prior to submission to the Court.  They say that
defective applications, like that in the Wen Ho Lee case, are
turned back before they ever reach the Court.

A separate problem arises due to the fact that, unlike ordinary
criminal cases involving law enforcement wiretaps, no defendant
in a FISA-based prosecution has ever been able to view the
application for surveillance and to meaningfully challenge its
legality.  In the absence of adversarial review, courts depend
exclusively on the prosecution's version of events.

The government submitted a record 1005 requests for surveillance
or physical search in calendar year 2000.  Of those, 1003 were
approved before the end of the year.  (The remaining two were
approved in January 2001.)  Nine requests submitted in 1999 were
also approved in 2000, for a grand total of 1012 approved in
2000.  (The previous high was 880 authorizations granted in
1999.)  One request was modified but none was denied.

The latest FISA report to Congress is not yet available online.
But several previous annual reports are posted here:


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Secrecy News is archived at:

Steven Aftergood
Project on Government Secrecy
Federation of American Scientists
Email:  saftergood@igc.org

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