Friday, October 8, 2010

Information Sharing

I was fortunate in being asked to provide my opinions to the 9/11/2001 Commission in the form of a staff briefing. I understand that notes of that briefing will be available from the National Archives and Records Administration in the near future. We met for several hours, perhaps as many as five. I was accompanied by Colonel John Brinkerhoff who was in FEMA for a number of years in the Carter/Reagan era and has a productive history of published comments on a variety of issues and in particular civil military relationships. John was Commissioned after graduation from West Point in 1950 as an B.S. in Engineering and served in the Field Artillery. Most of his infantry classmates did not survey the summer and fall of 1950 due to the outbreak of the Korean War.

John focused on issues of preparedness and I focused on issues of information sharing. To my knowledge my comments and others are reflected in the deep concern of the Commission on information sharing and in particular the civil military interface and the law enforcement and INTEL interface. At one time the enforcement of Rule 6E concerning Grand Jury testimony was not enforced within the DOJ. Civil Division attorneys often reviewed Grand Jury testimony to follow up on civil fraud matters. Then SCOTUS ruled that was a violation of Rule 6E.
Had the Grand Jury testimony in the first WTC bombing trials been reviewed by INTEL community Al Queda (sic) might have been in focus much earlier in both INTEL and Law Enforcement circles.
My focus was in the non-statutory concept of "Need-toKnow" and how it was manipulated in various bureacracies and by bureacrats and in particular the line drawing between the CIA and DOD and DOJ. Well we know the result.

Now the war on information sharing has broken out again but in the context of leaking as evidenced by the publication of another book in the long series by Bob Woodward of WAPO that relies primarily on leaked classified information to become best sellers. It is interesting that he has a background in INTEL for the Navy. Well how soon will the judgement be entered that he is not above the law and should be prosecuted under the current statutory standards much as Samuel Elliot Morrison Jr. was for leaking SAT INTEL. Even if the prosecution failed for him perhaps those who leaked that worked for the administration should be prosecuted.
I of course do have some background in classification and declassification and have often wondered at the willingness of politicians to declassify by leak.

Early in my retirement I was called by another White House and asked if the President should sign a law paralled the Official Secrets Act of Great Britain. I said it should not be signed if it enacted by Congress and should be vetoed. It did not pass. But I stated my belief that it would only jeopardize various administrations all of which leaked favorable docs from time to time, favorable to them. Classification as we all know is never to cover up waste, fraud, and abuse as it does all the time.

I stated that several Directors of FEMA has released classified information without having properly declassified it and therefore in Britain would have been subject to prosecution.

The cult of secrecy is overwhelming since 9/11/01 and well out of control. My favorite book on this subject is deceased Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's book "Secrecy" published about 1998 I think. It should be read by all who have clearances or who classify documents or declassify them.

A personal example comes to mind on information sharing. Whatever the design of the rather inept group that formed the WH Reorganization Project Team that led to forming FEMA, the issue of clearances was never discussed in their analysis. Almost by accident Director James Lee Witt was able to cut the Gordian Knot of secrecy in FEMA due to the publication just before he arrived of the Blue Ribbon Panel report sometimes referred to as the Trefry Commission report. James Lee Witt reduced clearances in FEMA by almost 45% thus allowing the Need-to-know threat to be greatly diminished. Many times a understaffed and underfunded FEMA survived a crisis because it was small and information could be shared.

Now once again a WH is publically arguing against information sharing in various ways. This of course is the path to its own destruction. In a democracy (Republic) the premise is that interested citizens who vote can obtain the information they need to elect the best representatives, and those representatives will have the access to needed information. Well this Administration has currently again placed that paradigm at jeopardy. Fortunately the new Intelligence Authorization law just enacted makes some steps forwards on this process including establishing an Inspector General for the INTEL community. That is certainly progress for a democracy.

More on secrecy issues in the future. It will be interesting to see how the recent Executive Order on provision of classified info to the STATES and others gets actually implemented.

Did you ever wonder how the authority to classify was started? We do know that the so-called "state secrets" doctrine was created to defend a fraud on the court by the DOJ and USAF. Well never ask if democracy or our Republic fails. Like POGO always said "We have met the enemy and it is US"!