Secrecy News -- 02/01/01
saftergood at igc.org
Thu Feb 1 11:09:48 EST 2001
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
February 1, 2001
** NEW COMPENDIUM OF DOE DECLASSIFICATION DECISIONS
** PUBLIC CONSIDERS GOVERNMENT SECRECY EXCESSIVE
** INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY FIXED; SEND MONEY
NEW COMPENDIUM OF DOE DECLASSIFICATION DECISIONS
The Department of Energy has published a new edition of "Restricted Data
Declassification Decisions, 1946 to the Present," an exhaustive 140 page
record of declassification activity that includes several items concerning
atomic energy and nuclear weapons that were declassified over the past year.
"This document should be of interest and utility to historical researchers
and individuals who are interested in information security," it states.
It is evident that an enormous amount of detailed information on nuclear
science and technology has been declassified over the years. Beyond
tabulating these declassification actions, the report itself provides some
historical insights. Thus, "[It is a] fact that the DOE made a substantial
investment in the past to develop a pure fusion weapon. [However,] the U.S.
does not have and is not developing a pure fusion weapon.... No credible
design for a pure fusion weapon resulted from the DOE investment."
Some of the newly reported declassifications include:
** "The fact that Neptunium-237 can be used for a nuclear explosive
device" (declassified in 1992 but only reported this year).
** "The fact that the mass of plutonium in the Trinity test device and Fat
Man was about 13.5 pounds (6 kilograms)" (well known but now "official").
** "The presence of enriched uranium ... in unspecified weapon secondaries"
(also well known).
** Detailed information on the "hydronuclear tests" conducted at the Nevada
Test Site from 1954-1966, including "the fact that these experiments
included equation of state (EOS) and nuclear weapon safety experiments in
which high explosives (HE) were used."
DOE notes that the pace of declassification has slowed and it projects that
"the reduced frequency of new declassifications will continue in the future."
The January 1, 2001 report, with new declassifications highlighted in red,
is posted here:
PUBLIC CONSIDERS GOVERNMENT SECRECY EXCESSIVE
The U.S. public has a "strong view that the government classifies too much
information," according to an analysis of survey data collected for the
Defense Department over the past several years. "Public skepticism towards
the magnitude of government secrecy is substantial."
This was one finding of a unique study on "Trends in Public Attitudes
Towards Government Security Programs, An Analysis of General Social Survey
Data, 1994-1998" performed by the Security Research Center (SRC) of the
Defense Security Service.
The SRC analysis identified strong public support for protecting national
security information, especially information on technology having military
applications, diplomatic initiatives, military operations, domestic
counter-terrorism and the intelligence budget. At the same time, it found
a consistent majority view that too much information is classified.
This unusual study of public perceptions was undertaken because "our
ability to maintain and enhance security programs in part depends upon the
public's willingness to endorse appropriate measures to neutralize security
risks and upon the importance and priority the electorate gives to
safeguarding national security information," the SRC study says. "In
theory, it is ultimately the people to whom the government is accountable
for its policies."
The analysis also found that the public views espionage as a very serious
crime that deserves severe punishment. On the other hand, a clear majority
(62.3%) held that an official who leaks sensitive information to the press
should not be imprisoned but only reprimanded (19.7%) or fired
(42.6%). This view tends to vindicate President Clinton's veto of
legislation last year that would have made leaking a felony subject to a
While the SRC study makes interesting reading, there is something
incongruous about the whole effort because actual security policies and
public attitudes are so loosely coupled: In practice, it doesn't matter a
great deal what the public thinks and there is no effective mechanism for
factoring public views into the policy formulation process. The Security
Policy Advisory Board was created to provide a "non-governmental," "public
interest" view on security policy -- but its members are retired government
security officials, including its chairman, Air Force General Larry Welch.
The SRC analysis of public attitudes also lacks any methodological
self-criticism, although it seems obvious that public responses would be
shaped significantly by the formulation of the questions and of the answers
that are presented for selection.
The study was prepared in 1999, based on survey data collected in 1994,
1996, and 1998. It was written by Lynn F. Fischer of the SRC in Monterey,
California. Mr. Fischer said that he is still awaiting new survey data
from 2000 and anticipates preparation of an updated study of public
attitudes towards government security programs later this year.
The SRC study may be found here:
INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY FIXED; SEND MONEY
The report of the U.S. Commission on National Security, co-chaired by
former senators Warren B. Rudman and Gary Hart, has been described as the
most radical proposal for national security reform and institutional
re-design since the National Security Act of 1947.
So it is remarkable to discover that its far-reaching proposals do not
extend to the U.S. intelligence community.
While some may have thought that efforts to reform U.S. intelligence had
stalled or misfired, it turns out that they were successful all along,
according to the Rudman Commission.
"The basic structure of the U.S. intelligence community does not require
change," the Commission believes. "The community has implemented many of
the recommendations for reform made by other studies."
The only thing required now is "change" of another sort, and a lot of
it. The Commission "urges an overall increase in the [national
intelligence] budget.... There is no escaping the need for an increase in
overall resources for the intelligence community."
Senator Rudman received the National Intelligence Distinguished Service
Medal from Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet last month.
Among some other surprising conclusions, the Commission found that "the
inadequacies of our systems of research and education pose a greater threat
to U.S. national security over the next quarter century than any potential
conventional war that we might imagine."
This is not a statement that is calculated to please military contractors
or their representatives in Congress. On the other hand, the Commission's
conception of "education" is about as narrow as it could be. It does not
refer to education for freedom and citizenship, but to a kind of vocational
training that is needed to service the national security machine.
A copy of the Commission report, entitled "Road Map for National Security:
Imperative for Change" and released on January 31, is posted here (as a
large 1.6 MB PDF file):
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