[Intelforum] Secrecy News -- 06/25/09
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from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 55
June 25, 2009
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
** JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: A CRS ANALYSIS OF SELECTED OPINIONS
** PUBLIC INPUT SOUGHT ON CLASSIFICATION REFORM
** 2006 SATELLITE FAILURE REMAINS A MYSTERY, NRO SAYS
** VARIOUS RESOURCES
JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: A CRS ANALYSIS OF SELECTED OPINIONS
More than anything else, Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a judicial conservative
who has hewed closely to established precedent, according to a new
analysis by the Congressional Research Service of appellate court
decisions authored by President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court.
"Perhaps the most consistent characteristic of Judge Sotomayor's approach
as an appellate judge has been an adherence to the doctrine of stare
decisis, i.e., the upholding of past judicial precedents," the 59-page CRS
In several important areas, however, the Judge's conception of the law
remains opaque. For example, "An examination of Judge Sotomayor's opinions
provides little guidance as to her judicial philosophy regarding executive
authority in the realm of national security," the report said.
Judge Sotomayor authored two opinions involving the Freedom of Information
Act. But "because the opinions are few and relied on relevant Supreme
Court precedent, it is difficult to draw conclusions from them regarding
her overall approach to FOIA or to related matters such as individual
privacy or transparency in government," the CRS concluded.
See "Judge Sonia Sotomayor: Analysis of Selected Opinions," June 19,
Other noteworthy new CRS reports obtained by Secrecy News include the
"Supreme Court Nominations: Senate Floor Procedure and Practice,
1789-2009," updated June 5, 2009:
"Inherently Governmental Functions and Department of Defense Operations:
Background, Issues, and Options for Congress," June 22, 2009:
"Federal Rulemaking: The Role of the Office of Information and Regulatory
Affairs," June 9, 2009:
"Homeland Security Department: FY2010 Request for Appropriations," June
"Iran's 2009 Presidential Elections," June 22, 2009:
PUBLIC INPUT SOUGHT ON CLASSIFICATION REFORM
At the request of the National Security Advisor, a public meeting has been
scheduled for July 8 to solicit public comments and recommendations
concerning proposed revisions to executive branch classification and
declassification policies. The meeting was announced in a June 23 Federal
The Public Interest Declassification Board, which is hosting the July 8
meeting, will also launch a new blog next week to solicit public
recommendations online. The blog will sequentially consider four areas:
declassification policy, creation of a National Declassification Center,
classification policy, and technology challenges and opportunities.
Discussion of each topic will continue for three days, before moving to
the next topic.
Meanwhile, an experimental and somewhat erratic White House process for
gathering public input on transparency and openness has entered its third
phase, intended to draft "constructive proposals" for advancing open
2006 SATELLITE FAILURE REMAINS A MYSTERY, NRO SAYS
In February 2008, the U.S. fired a missile at an inoperable U.S.
intelligence satellite that had failed shortly after launch in December
2006. The satellite was destroyed reportedly in order to prevent an
intact reentry of its toxic hydrazine fuel tank. But do we know why or
how it failed in the first place?
"No," the director of the National Reconnaissance Office told Congress
last year, in newly disclosed responses to questions for the record.
"After an exhaustive formal failure investigation, and three different
independent review team investigations, the cause of the failure and what
failed was not determined," said Scott Large, then-director of the NRO.
"Our exhaustive analysis of the spacecraft design and test program did not
identify the root cause of the failure," Mr. Large said.
His remarks appeared in the record of a March 5, 2008 hearing before the
House Armed Services Committee that was published this month. See "Budget
Request and Status of Space Activities" (p. 89):
"The era of Acquisition Reform is over," Mr. Large also told Congress.
"It has left the NRO in a fragile state with a poor history of
On June 12, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, with concurrence of the
DNI, appointed retired Air Force Gen. Bruce Carlson as the 17th director
of the National Reconnaissance Office.
A new U.S. Marine Corps Order establishes Corps policy governing the
disclosure of U.S. classified military information and controlled
unclassified information to foreign governments. See "Disclosure of
Military Information to Foreign Governments and Interests," MCO 5510.20A,
May 15, 2009:
The Joint Chiefs of Staff issued new doctrinal guidance on combating
weapons of mass destruction, including the three pillars of
nonproliferation, counterproliferations, and WMD consequence management.
See "Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction," Joint Publication 3-40, June
The Merit Systems Protection Board upheld the firing of federal air
marshal Robert MacLean for allegedly disclosing "sensitive security
information," even though the information in question had not been marked
as "sensitive" at the time, reports Nick Schwellenbach of the Center for
Public Integrity. But then the Board published its ruling online even
though the document was marked "sensitive security information." No word
yet on whether the Board will fire itself. See "Transparency: A Shrill
Message for Whistleblowers," June 25, 2009:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the
Federation of American Scientists.
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