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Bill Gertz Explains Importance Of Confidential Sources

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July 23, 2008
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy '
Secrecy News Blog: Todays Issue

In advance of his obligatory appearance in a California court on July 24 regarding possible violations of grand jury secrecy, Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz filed a sworn declaration describing the importance of confidential government sources and their role in his work "related to the growing threat from the People's Republic of China."

"Confidential sources provide information necessary to the reporter's function of keeping the public informed of events of national interest," he explained. "Without the information provided by confidential sources, these events -- or important aspects of these events -- would remain shielded from public and congressional scrutiny and oversight."

"In my experience U.S. government employees are willing to provide sensitive government information only to those reporters and journalists whom they trust," Mr. Gertz wrote. "A reporter who is forced to disclose the identity of a U.S. government employee who had confidentially provided information for a news story would irreparably damage his and others' ability to cover similar stories in the future."

"From a broader perspective, if compelled disclosure of the identities of confidential sources becomes commonplace, it would have a very damaging chilling effect on potential sources throughout government at all levels, in the business community, and across a wide spectrum of public and private organizations whose operations and activities affect the American public."

A copy of Mr. Gertz's July 22 declaration is available here:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/jud/gertz072208.pdf

But Tai Mak, one of the defendants in the criminal case reported in the 2006 story by Mr. Gertz that led to his pending subpoena, said the court should aggressively pursue its investigation of the apparent violation of grand jury secrecy.

Tai Mak, who has pleaded guilty to export control violations, urged the court not to quash the subpoena against Mr. Gertz.

"The improper leak of Grand Jury material puts extremely important constitutional and other substantial rights at stake," the Tai Mak brief stated. "It is necessary and appropriate that the parties, the Court, and the public, be apprised of all the facts and circumstances that are relevant to the protection of those rights."

http://www.fas.org/sgp/jud/gertz072008-taimak.pdf

AN OFFICE OF TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT ARCHIVE

The Federation of American Scientists is offering a new online collection of resources pertaining to the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), the congressional advisory organization that produced an enduring body of science policy literature before it was terminated by Congress in 1995.

"The OTA was an invaluable resource that informed Congress about an incredibly broad range of science and technology issues," said Henry Kelly, President of the Federation of American Scientists and a former OTA staff member. "Numerous reports, on subjects such as transportation, energy, health care, and information technology remain relevant more than 10 years after OTA issued its final report."

The new archive includes all of the official OTA publications, which have also been published online by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School (www.princeton.edu/~ota), as well as various previously unreleased documents and memoranda, interviews, and related materials.

http://www.fas.org/ota/

GAO ON INFORMATION SHARING

The complexities and limited successes of government efforts to improve the sharing of terrorism-related information were examined in a new report from the Government Accountability Office published today.

See "Information Sharing Environment: Definition of the Results to Be Achieved in Improving Terrorism-Related Information Sharing Is Needed to Guide Implementation and Assess Progress," June 2008:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/gao/gao-08-492.pdf

The report was summarized in GAO testimony presented today to the Senate Homeland Security Committee:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/gao/gao-08-637t.pdf

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) and the House Oversight Committee, introduced and marked up two bills to limit the use of dissemination controls on unclassified information and to reduce overclassification. The bills, drafted in comparative secrecy with limited external review, had not been publicly released at the middle of the day. Statements by Rep. Waxman describing the intended purpose of the bills are here:

http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2008/waxman-hr6575.pdf

http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2008/waxman-hr6576.pdf

AIRCRAFT RECOVERY OPERATIONS

A new U.S. Army field manual presents guidance on Army aircraft recovery operations.

"Aircraft recovery missions include the assessment, repair, and retrieval, if possible, of aircraft forced down due to component malfunction, accident, or combat-related damage that prevents the continued safe flight or operation of the aircraft," the manual explains.

"The aircraft recovery mission is complete upon the return of all personnel and either: The return of the aircraft through self-recovery or dedicated recovery utilizing aerial or surface recovery methods and techniques; [or] the selective cannibalization and destruction or abandonment of the aircraft."

See "Aircraft Recovery Operations," U.S. Army Field Manual 3-04.513, July 2008:

http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/fm3-04-513.pdf

A U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber crashed near Guam on July 21.

http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/07/b-52-crashes-of.html

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