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National Security Administration

"Its pretty basic stuff - secrecy invites corruption."
- Steven Aftergood


"Secrecy all too often becomes a political tool used by Executive Branch agencies to shield information which may be politically sensitive or policies which may be unpopular with the American public. Worse yet, information may be classified to hide from public view illegal or unethical activity." - Senator Jeese Helms, Senate hearing in 1997

"In 1997, 20 officials in the federal government were empowered to wield the top secret stamp. In 2006 there are 1,300." - Paul McMasters

state secrets privilege

Top secrets, classified secrets, unclassified secrets,
more secrets and damning secrets

secrecy under the Obama administration

Executive Order 12,958

how to bury a secret

secret law

arcani imperii

"The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave dangers that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know." - John F. Kennedy, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel New York City, April 27, 1961


classifying methodology

"In recent years, the executive branch has asserted the privilege more frequently and broadly than before, typically to seek dismissal of lawsuits at the pleadings stage. Facing allegations of unlawful Government conduct ranging from domestic warrantless surveillance, to employment discrimination, to retaliation against whistleblowers, to torture and 'extraordinary rendition,' the Bush administration has invoked the privilege in an effort to shut down civil suits against both Government officials and private parties. Courts have largely acquiesced. A strong public perception has emerged that sees the privilege as a tool for Executive abuse." - Senate Judiciary Committee Report 110-442

1948 Three employees of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), an Air Force contractor, are killed when a B-29 Superfortress crashes in Waycross, Georgia.

The widows of three crew members who die in the crash of a B-29 Superfortress bomber requested accident reports on the crash.

The Air Force denies the request and files affidavits with the Supreme Court claiming that the withheld reports contain information about the aircraft's secret mission. They describe secret electronic equipment on board that has to be protected from disclosure.

1953 The Supreme Court, citing the Air Force claim, rules in favor of the Air Force and establishes the State Secrets Privilege.

Supreme Court decision in United States vs Reynolds sets as the cornerstone of national security secrecy policy, the "state secrets privilege", which relied on false government information to provide the precedential basis for asserting that there are "military matters which, in the interest of national security, should not be divulged."

Eventually the Air Force accident reports were declassified and found to contain nothing whatsoever about a secret mission or sensitive electronic equipment.

The declassified Air Force accident reports do highlight negligence in training crew members, negligence in maintenance of the aircraft and pilot error.

There is absolutely no mention of ‘classified secrets' in the accident reports.
Permanent flying crews had not been established for the experimental flights of 3150th Electronics Squadron.

Civilian passengers and crew were not briefed prior to take off on emergency procedures.

The commanding officer failed to exercise adequate supervision.

The pilot inadvertently hit the feathering switch on engine #4 when hitting the feathering switch of engine #1.

Technical orders, as to maintenance, were not complied with so the aircraft was not considered to have been safe to fly.

The legal precedent that granted the federal government the 'state secrets privilege' was based on false and misleading information provided by a federal government agency, the Air Force.

The federal government has used the ‘ state secrets privilege to cover up government negligence and mistakes that would be embarrassing to government officials and that might prove government officials were liable for their acts.

October 1, 2003 The case is refiled as Herring v. United States in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on . The trial court finds no fraud in the government's claim of privilege in 1953.

2005 Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upholds the decision in the new litigation, in which District Court determined "there was no fraud because the documents, read in their historical context, could have revealed secret information about the equipment being tested on the plane and, on a broader reading, the claim of privilege referred to both the mission and the workings of the B-29".

The truth is quite ugly. If the federal government allowed the State Secrets Privilege to be overturned it would be bankrupt and out of business.

"Over time, the desire to protect military secrets has started to look a good deal like the impulse to cover up mistakes, avoid embarrassment and gain insulation from liability" - Barry Siegel


The rule of law does not exist
when your precedence is based on fraud !

Court Views State Secrets Too Narrowly, Govt Says

The Shadow of State Secrets


information blackout

"A layman might have supposed that 'the very principle upon which our judicial system is based' is justice, or fairness to the parties, or an accurate record. But a layman would be wrong.

Since 9-11 government agencies have restricted access to unclassified information in federal agency libraries, EPA libraries, archives, Web sites, and official databases.

Once freely available, a growing number of these sources are now barred to the public as "sensitive but unclassified" or "for official use only."

No comprehensive catalog of deleted information exists.

The information blackout serves the interests of the Bush crime family, who is allergic to criticism or probing questions.

The information blackout is a disservice to the American people.

Current information policies are conditioning Americans to lower their expectations of government accountability and to doubt their political leaders.

Information is the oxygen of democracy." - Steven Aftergood


"Since 911, George W. Bush's mouthpieces have ferociously attacked anyone not in complete agreement with their position, accusing them of anti-patriotism, naivete and, now, actual crimes of treason. All this noise must serve a purpose. I wonder what else they don't want us to know." - David Higgins

"In too many cases, claims of state secrets have succeeded in keeping important cases out of court entirely or preventing courts from considering evidence vital to the outcome of a case," said Rep. John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, at a January 29, 2008 hearing on "Reform of the State Secrets Privilege".

"Like George Orwell's Newspeak, we need a new language for the legal environment that George W. Bush's radical judges have created. "Not guilty by reason of secrecy" - is there anything the government can't do, as long as it keeps it secret?" - Dan Kronstadt

"It quickly becomes apparent to any person who has considerable experience with classified material that there is massive over classification and that the principal concern of the classifiers is not with national security, but with governmental embarrassment of one sort or another."- Erwin Griswold, who as United States solicitor general prosecuted the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case in 1971, persuaded three Supreme Court justices to vote for a prior restraint on the New York Times in the case based on national security.

1989 Erwin Griswold confesses in a Washington Post Op-Ed article that there was no actual national security damage from the publication of the Pentagon Papers.



Top secrets, classified secrets, unclassified secrets, more secrets and damning secrets.

"A court that automatically accepts the governments argument about 'state secrets', without ever looking at the documents in question, aligns the judiciary with the executive branch and eliminates any chance of a fair trail." - Louis Fisher

"They're doing everything to remove our history, to damage the Freedom of Information Act. George W. Bush managed to have a number of presidential papers, including those of his father, put out of the reach of historians, or anybody for a great length of time, during which they will probably be shredded, so they will never be available. And what I have always called jokingly the United States of Amnesia will be worse than an amnesiac, it will have suffered a lobotomy, there will be no functioning historical memory of our history." - Gore Vidal


A report by the special inspector general of Iraq reconstruction stated that Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root routinely stamped information, such as the number of meals served, as proprietary "secret" information.

The Army Corp of Engineers has stamped "secret" information on flooding dangers in Florida.

Information on 140 Superfund sites, sites contaminated with highly toxic materials, has been stamped "secret".

"There's over 50 percent of the information that, while it may meet the criteria for classification, really should not be classified in terms of what we lose." - Information Security Oversight Office director William Leonard at an August 24, 2004 hearing of the House Government Reform Committee.

2005 Annual financial costs attributable to the national security classification system reached a record high of $9.2 billion according to a new report from the Information Security Oversight Office.




waterboard bush

secrecy under the Obama administration

Douglas N. Letter, a justice department lawyer for the Barack Hussein Obama II administration, surprised a panel of federal appeals judges on February 9, 2009 by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets to continue to shield those involved with rendition and torture under the George W. Bush administration. Barack Hussein Obama II ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but his Justice Department has reneged on that important civil liberties issue.

Douglas N. Letter urged the judges to pore over the classified "secret" information, and predicted "you will understand precisely, as Judge Ware did, why this case can't be litigated."

The lower court judge, James Ware, had allowed the invocation of the state secrets privilege.

The Barack Hussein Obama II followed in the footsteps of previous administrations. The federal government mindset remains the same, that the revealing of past crimes committed by top federal government officials would only enlarge the "crisis of confidence" in the federal government.


Executive Order 12,958

1995 William Jefferson Clinton signs Executive Order 12958 which mandates that 25-year-old documents be automatically declassified unless exempted for national security or other reasons.

March 2003 George Walker Bush affirms and amends Executive Order 12958.

midnight December 31, 2006 700 million pages of secret governmnet documents became unsecret. 400 million formerly classified pages at the National Archives, another 270 million at the FBI, 30 million from other agencies, emerge into the sunshine of open government EXCEPT ...


"The present standards for classifying and declassifying information were last amended in March, 2003.

Under these current standards, the President, Vice President, agency heads, and any other officials designated by the President may classify information upon a determination that the unauthorized disclosure of such information could reasonably be expected to damage national security. Such information must be owned by, produced by, or under the control of the federal government, and must concern one of the following:

- military plans, weapons systems, or operations;

- foreign government information;

- intelligence activities, intelligence sources/methods, cryptology;

- scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to national security;

- federal programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities;

- vulnerabilities or capabilities of national security systems;

- weapons of mass destruction.

Information is classified at one of three levels based on the amount of danger that its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause to national security.

Information is classified as "Top Secret" if its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security.

The standard for "Secret" information is "serious damage" to national security, while for "confidential" information the standard is "damage" to national security.

Significantly, for each level, the original classifying officer must identify or describe the specific danger potentially presented by the information's disclosure.

The officer who originally classifies the information establishes a date for declassification based upon the expected duration of the information's sensitivity.

If the office cannot set an earlier declassification date, then the information must be marked for declassification in 10 years' time or 25 years, depending on the sensitivity of the information.

The deadline for declassification can be extended if the threat to national security still exists."

Analysis: Executive Order 12,958 goes too far by allowing any information that involves ‘scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to national security' to be classified.

It can be argued that any and all information relates to any one of these three categories - 'scientific, technological, or economic' should and can be withheld since national security includes profitability of federal government business'.

Scientific, technological, or economic matters that relate to oil, gas, energy, hedge funds, leveraged buyouts, money management, government bonds, insurance, banking, publishing, broadcasting, consumer products, chemicals, telecommunications, outsourcing, drugs, medical products and information services could each be connected to national security.



how to bury a secret

"If it is true that no one can find White House advisor Karl Rove's deleted e-mails, it does not say much for the president's domestic spying capability to keep track of terrorist communications." - Edward Saade

Fifty archivists can process 40 million pages in a year so they will need a hundred years to process 400 million.

The backlog, inside the National Archives II facility in College Park, measures 160,000 cubic feet inside a massive classified vault with special lighting and climate controls to preserve old paper.

Row upon row of electronically operated steel shelves hold hundreds of thousands of document boxes buffered to fight destructive acidity.

Documents are to be scrutinized and processed according to the classification instructions written on them by staffers in any one of several agencies.

Jeanne Schauble holds the Orwellian title of director of the Initial Processing and Declassification Division.

Archivists, overwhelmed by the number of documents, that have arrived at the facility, face the strange mumbo jumbo of competing declassification instructions from various agencies with arcane rules and layers of document review.

The 911 Commission Report decried the level of government secrecy as a national security obstacle.

A Defense Department official testified before Congress in August 2004 that perhaps 50 percent of classified documents did not need that designation.



arcani imperii

Central to the global right to information movement is the presumption that information held by government should be publicly available unless government officials can make a good case that legitimate interests – perhaps the public interest in preserving national security or the need to protect citizen privacy – would be harmed by releasing that information.

Many people believe that the right to information, the right to know and the presumption of openness is a basic principle of democratic governance.

Unfortunately, access to information has always been closely tied the distribution of political power.

The political philosopher Jean Bodin revived the term used by the Roman historian Tacitus to describe the "secrets of imperial policy" that had to be protected against prying: the arcana imperii. Following Tacitus, Jean Bodin and other supporters of absolutist rule argue that the ability to maintain the integrity of the state will be undercut if arcana imperii is not protected.

Revolutions in England (in 1688) and France (in 1789) led to an abandonment of the absolutist conception of state secrecy. The right to free speech was gradually entrenched, legislatures improved their capacity to monitor taxing and spending, and the process of lawmaking was itself opened to public scrutiny.

1789 Drafters of the Constitution of the United States of America emphasize the need for open lawmaking by requiring publication of a "regular statement of account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money," as well as a journal of Congressional proceedings.

1803 British House of Commons acknowledges the right of the press to sit in the public gallery and record its debates; the Hansard, the daily record of British parliamentary debates, begins publication in 1829.

1900 Western democracies have achieved a level of basic transparency.

The rule of law is established, the process of lawmaking is open to public view, and the right to speak freely about government affairs is protected.

Within the bowels of government, secrecy is still very much the rule.

The concept of the "official secret" is the specific invention of government and nothing is so fanatically defended as the "official secret."

Every government seeks to keep knowledge and intentions secret to shield actions from critical examination. Government naturally welcomes a poorly informed populace in so far as ignorance agrees with the government's interests of concealing knowledge and intentions behind the Veil of the "Official Secret."




federal grand juries

"Arnold Burns, former United States deputy attorney general, has said that federal grand juries can be used as a "vicious tool." They can be used to violate Constitutional rights and basic standards of fairness, while all records are secret forever. We should at least unseal records after 10 years so that abuses can come to light." - Elaine Fleeman




secret law

"The law in this country includes not just statutes and regulations, which the public can readily access, it also includes binding legal interpretations made by courts and the executive branch. These interpretations are increasingly being withheld from the public and Congress.

The most notorious example recently released is the 2003 Justice Department memorandum on torture written by John Yoo. The memorandum was, for a nine-month period in 2003, the law that the administration followed when it came to matters of torture.

That law was essentially a declaration that the administration could ignore the laws passed by Congress. The content of the memo was deeply troubling, but just as troubling was the fact that this legal opinion was classified and its content kept secret for years. As we now know, the memo should never have been classified because it contains no information that could compromise national security if released.

The memos on torture policy that have been released or leaked hint at a much bigger body of law about which we know virtually nothing.

The code of secrecy also extends to yet another body of law: changes to executive orders.

The administration takes the position that a president can "waive" or "modify" a published executive order without any public notice - simply by not following it. It's every president's prerogative to change an executive order, but doing so without public notice works a secret change in the law. Because the published order stays on the books, Congress and the public have no idea that it's no longer in effect. Keeping the law secret doesn't enhance national security, but it does give the government free rein to operate without oversight or accountability." - Senator Russ Feingold




secrecy systems costs

2007 Information Security Oversight Office reports the cost of implementing the national security classification system in government and industry reaches an all-time high of $9.91 billion.

This classification cost figure includes physical security, computer security and other aspects of classified information security is a 4.6 percent increase over the year before and is the highest amount ever reported by the Information Security Oversight Office.

September 15, 2009 Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis C. Blair, discloses that the current annual budget for the 16 agency U.S. "Intelligence Community" (IC) is $75 billion and employs some 200,000 operatives world-wide, including private contractors.

Admiral Blair states that the "traditional fault line" separating secretive military programs from overall intelligence activities "is no longer relevant."
Domestic enemy watchlists can be accessed by law enforcement personel through the Homeland Security Data Network or the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet) at a fusion center.
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