Nico at TP links to this story about the Senate's thus far unsuccessful attempt to declassify two of SSCI's reports on WMD. The basic story is that the White House is trying to prevent an effort, supported by both our too-genteel SSCI Chair Jay Rockefeller and by the partisan Pat Roberts, to declassify last fall's Phase II SSCI reports, the one that compared pre-war assessments and the one that showed the influence of Chalabi and the INC. Now, most of the declassifications must be really simple moves. But the White House is almost certainly most interested in the "declassification" of a bunch of things that were classified in the reports contrary to normal guidance on classification (which makes this a perfect report for an appeals board). One of these, significantly, was "classified" at the direction of OVP.
So here's some detail on what they're preventing you from reading:
The Still-Classified Information
If you look at the pre-war assessment report, for example, the only things redacted are:
- One December 2002 detail on centrifuges
- Details about two papers assessing the IAEA support (or not) on centrifuges
- A large paragraph presumably about the IAEA centrifuge report
- A paragraph about the follow-up assessments of the Mobile Bioweapons Labs
- Half a paragraph about UAV claims
- A few details about Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi (mostly protecing a foreign intelligence service; the corresponding info in the conclusion is also redacted)
- What appears to be a reference to Major Harith's story appearing in Vanity Fair (a magazine name is redacted)
- Thee paragraphs relating to presidential (or vice-presidential) use of the Atta-in-Prague canard between January and March 2003
- Another paragraph on Atta
- A summary of how badly the NIE predicted ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq (with corresponding info in the conclusions)
Out of 150 pages, only about 4 pages redacted. And most of the substantive redactions pertain to BushCo claims of a tie between Al Qaeda and Iraq.
Tellingly, the redactions in the INC report are much more significant. For example, there's an entire section at the beginning that has been re-written for public consumption that describes CIA's early relationship with Chalabi--all of this, as far as I can tell, is available in Bob Baer's See No Evil. But then, this section would remain as it is, I imagine, in substitute form.
Some of the other somewhat innocuous redactions are:
- A passage on DIA's intentions for the INC data-collection (that is, propaganda) program
- News of the arrest of a senior INC official (not sure if this is Kareem Aras or not)
- Some damning information about INC sources (pertaining, for example, to failed polygraph tests), as well as identifying information
- Information on the use of intelligence from INC's defectors
- One long paragraph about Haideri's actions, and another long paragraph about whether the INC coached him or not
- A paragraph in a conclusion about how the NSC shouldn't continue to fund the propaganda from dissident groups that have raised counter-intelligence concerns
- Two conclusions from the INC fans--this one, I'd like to see declassified--do it for the stoopid
So in general, these reports would be easy to declassify.
The Embarrassing Redactions
There are some more interesting redactions in the Additional Views endorsed by the Democrats (in case someone like Bob Novak cares, these views were adopted with unanimity by the minority--that's the kind of detail he just doesn't understand). For example, an entire paragraph about the way the Administration used Haideri's intelligence is redacted, much later, a passage on the purported Mohammed Atta meeting in Prague. Below the redactions, a note appears each time:
The intelligence community's decision to classify the information in the above paragraph is not consistent with its decision to declassify similar information described elsewhere in the report.
On the following page, a paragraph about the Mobile Bioweapons Labs is redacted. This note appears:
Certain information redacted in the above paragraph is unclassified and drawn from a prewar document prepared by the White House but not cleared by the intelligence community before its release to the public. We find the intelligence community's decision to classify this information to be without justification.
Under a larger section on Mohammed Atta, this longer paragraph appears:
We have concluded that the intelligence community's decision to classify the CIA document about the alleged Atta-al-Ani meeting in Prague discussed in the three paragraphs above and the underlying Committee report to be without justification. The intelligence community is unable to demonstrate to the Committee that disclosing the information would reveal sources and methods or otherwise harm national security. We believe the decision to keep from the public this revealing information about the use of intelligence information prior to the war represents an improper use of classification authority by the intelligence community to shield the White House.
And finally, there's the doozy, regarding something that happened in May 2002 with the Mobile Bioweapons story (which is, IIRC, when Major Harith's story was laundered through Vanity Fair, just before he was branded a fabricator):
The Committee was told that the decision to classify the information in the above paragraph explaining the existence of an Intelligence Community document about the claims made by INC Source #2 was made by the Office of the Vice President. We have concluded that there is no justifiable basis for classifying this information.
In other words, Dick intervened in a discussion between CIA and SSCI to make sure this little detail wouldn't see the light of day. I'm sure he justified his intervention by saying something about the Fourth Branch of government between the Senate and the Executive.
Another Effort to Abolish Classification Regularity
But the real reason this article is interesting is the way it fits into events of the day relating to Cheney's other attempts to abolish any controls on his ability to classify or declassify information. From the article:
The dispute revolves around an obscure federal panel, the nine-member Public Interest Declassification Board.
In a move that surprised some board members, Stephen Hadley, President Bush’s national security adviser, personally got involved negotiating the terms of the review [requested by Rockefeller and Roberts]. He told the board in a private meeting that he wanted the National Security Council staff to write the board’s bylaws, which dictate how they declassify a document.
Hadley’s spokesman did not return a phone and an e-mail message.
In other words, the guy who has been called "Cheney's Sleeper Agent" at the White House intervened to prevent the board to do ... anything.
This was an attempt by Congress to counter-act over-classification of materials that Congress is now being forced to try to reauthorize in such a fashion so that it can do its job. Bush is starving it for funds. In the end, this board created to put some more rationality to the declassification process has never once been able to declassify anything.
All because Cheney doesn't want us to know about the source of fanciful story he spun about Mohammed Atta.