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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2002 > Nov > Nov 6

Secrecy News -- 11/06/02

From: Steven Aftergood <saftergood.nul>
Date: Wed, 6 Nov 2002 16:02:23 -0500
Archived: Wed, 06 Nov 2002 12:27:49 -0400
Subject: Secrecy News -- 11/06/02


SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 111
November 6, 2002


**	FRUS ON VIETNAM, 1968
**	BENTHAM ON SECRECY
**	PRESIDENTIAL SIGNING STATEMENTS
**	NON-LETHAL WEAPONS TOUTED, DOUBTED
**	BIN LADEN'S "WILL"
**	PROFILES IN GYNECOLOGY
**	IN DEFENSE OF POLITICS


FRUS ON VIETNAM, 1968

United States policy towards Vietnam in 1968, including the
Johnson Administration's fruitless effort to negotiate an end to
the war, is documented in the latest volume of the State
Department's official Foreign Relations of the United States
(FRUS) series, published on November 1.

The issue of whether or not the FRUS volume could acknowledge
covert funding for a grass-roots political party to support
South Vietnam President Nguyen Van Thieu was decided favorably
by an interagency High Level Panel and the relevant
documentation was released "with some excisions," according to
the Preface by Historian of the State Department Marc J. Susser.

About one tenth of one percent of the historical records
originally proposed for publication in the new volume were not
declassified, but no documents were withheld in full.

The full text of "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-
1968, Volume VI, Vietnam, January-August 1968" is now available
here:

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/frus/johnsonlb/vi/


BENTHAM ON SECRECY

The British philosopher and utilitarian Jeremy Bentham (1748-
1832) was also an early proponent of "the safety of publicity"
and a critic of "the inutility of secresy," particularly as it
pertains to foreign policy.

"Secresy in the operations of the foreign department in England
ought not to be endured, being altogether useless, and equally
repugnant to the interests of liberty and peace," he wrote in
his Plan for an Universal and Perpetual Peace.

"Under the present system of secresy, ministers have... every
seduction to lead them into misconduct; while they have no check
to keep them out of it."

"The principle which throws a veil of secresy over the
proceedings of the foreign department of the cabinet is
pernicious in the highest degree, pregnant with mischiefs
superior to everything to which the most perfect absence of all
concealment could possibly give rise."

The text of Bentham's Plan, first published in 1843, may be
found here (thanks to AK in Bologna):

http://www.la.utexas.edu/research/poltheory/bentham/pil/pil.e04.html


PRESIDENTIAL SIGNING STATEMENTS

Presidential signing statements, issued when the President signs
new legislation into law, are increasingly becoming a vehicle
for the assertion of executive branch prerogatives.

President Bush has been routinely putting Congress on notice
that he regards many mandated new requirements as no more than
"advisory" since they are trumped by the Administration's
understanding of its intrinsic authorities.

Any new requirement involving the disclosure of information to
Congress or the public, in particular, is likely to be deflected
as follows:

"The executive branch shall construe [one recent disclosure
requirement] in a manner consistent with the constitutional
authorities of the President to supervise the unitary executive
branch and to withhold information the disclosure of which could
impair foreign relations, the national security, the
deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of
the Executive's constitutional duties."

This and several similar evasions of congressional action can be
found, for example, in the November 4 signing statement
accompanying the "21st Century Department of Justice
Appropriations Authorization Act":

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/11/20021104-3.html


NON-LETHAL WEAPONS TOUTED, DOUBTED

A new National Academy of Sciences report calls for increased
research and development into so-called non-lethal weapons that
are intended to disable or incapacitate persons without killing
them. See:

http://www4.nationalacademies.org/news.nsf/isbn/0309082889?OpenDocument

Non-lethal weapons have long been seen in some quarters as an
attractive option, since they would offer new alternatives short
of lethal force for crowd control, peacekeeping and other
unconventional military missions.

Critics have argued that non-lethal weapons are a misnomer,
since they could easily have lethal consequences, as the use of
fentanyl gas in a crowded Moscow theater illustrated horribly
last week. Moreover, they could have the unintended consequence
of lowering the threshold for violent conflict. And in some
cases, particularly when it comes to chemical and biological
agents, they could threaten the stability of international
agreements.

The Sunshine Project is a public interest group that has been in
the forefront of challenging the current non-lethal weapon
program. The group has assembled a significant collection of
source documents and related resources on its web site here:

http://www.sunshine-project.org/

"Basic political, legal, and strategic questions about the
utility of non-lethal weapons remain unanswered-sometimes even
unasked," according to "The Soft Kill Fallacy," a now somewhat
dated article from the Sept/Oct 1994 issue of the Bulletin of
the Atomic Scientists:

http://www.thebulletin.org/issues/1994/so94/so94Aftergood.html


BIN LADEN'S "WILL"

A document purporting to be the last will and testament of Osama
bin Laden was published two weeks ago in London in the Arabic
newspaper Al-Majallah.

The document, whose authenticity has not been proved, is
sometimes pathetic, occasionally ridiculous.

The author laments his cause's reversal of fortune, the
faithlessness of his co-religionists, and the heathen ways of
his enemies, and leavens his remarks with defiance and peculiar
ethical injunctions:

"O women kinsfolk. Do not ever use cosmetics or imitate the
whores and mannish women of the West. Be a school that graduates
men and mujahidin in the cause of Allah, protect your honor and
be a good example for the mothers of the faithful."

See the published excerpts from the "will," translated by the
CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service, here:

http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/ladin-will.htm


PROFILES IN GYNECOLOGY

Not particularly related to secrecy, but remarkable nevertheless
is the case of Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, a pioneering 19th
century Viennese gynecologist who ultimately saved the lives of
countless infants and mothers through his discovery of one of
the major causes of infant mortality.

Specifically, Semmelweis figured out that the midwives' dirty
fingernails and other poor hygienic practices could cause fatal
infections.

Yet Semmelweis "found it impossible to propagate his discovery
in Vienna because doctors with political influence who were
opposed to his findings saw to it that he was excluded from
positions where he might implement those findings, and
professionally discredited him.

"Semmelweis died in a mental institution some fifteen years
after his life-saving discovery, unable to cope with the
ridicule that had been heaped upon him and his life's work." (A.
Janik and S. Toulmin, "Wittgenstein's Vienna," p. 35)

A capsule biography of Semmelweis (in German) may be found here:

http://www.m-ww.de/persoenlichkeiten/semmelweis.html


IN DEFENSE OF POLITICS

In the aftermath of a dispiriting electoral season, it doesn't
hurt to be reminded that "You are not the prisoners of
impersonal forces," as historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. said
in a 1994 commencement address "In Defense of Politics."

"Politics is an exacting discipline, calling for hard thought,
for innovation, for irony, for vision, for daring. Moreover,
politics is great fun."

See Schlesinger's "In Defense of Politics," newly republished on
TomPaine.com, here:

http://www.tompaine.com/feature.cfm/ID/6631


_______________________________________________

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

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