The fact that the United States Government is able to keep information secret in the name of National Security is destructive of Democracy. Below is one example of information unavailable in full to the American Public for over 50 years. It also lists a number of strands of information which are critical to the public that are in secrecy status, most of which have nothing to do with national defense in the military sense but contain critical government framing of scientific issues such as fracking.
From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2014, Issue No. 66
October 6, 2014
Secrecy News Blog: http://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/
** TRANSCRIPT OF 1954 OPPENHEIMER HEARING DECLASSIFIED IN FULL
** INSPECTORS GENERAL WITH GUNS, AND MORE FROM CRS
TRANSCRIPT OF 1954 OPPENHEIMER HEARING DECLASSIFIED IN FULL
The transcript of the momentous 1954 Atomic Energy Commission hearing that led the AEC to revoke the security clearance of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who had led the Manhattan Project to produce the first atomic bomb, has now been declassified in full by the Department of Energy.
“The Department of Energy has re-reviewed the original transcript and is making available to the public, for the first time, the full text of the transcript in its original form,” according to a notice posted on Friday.
The Oppenheimer hearing was a watershed event that signaled a crisis in the nuclear weapons bureaucracy and a fracturing of the early post-war national security consensus. Asked for his opinion of the proceedings at the time, Oppenheimer told an Associated Press reporter (cited by Philip Stern) that “People will study the record of this case and reach their own conclusions. I think there is something to be learned from it.”
And so there is. But what?
“No document better explains the America of the cold war — its fears and resentments, its anxieties and dilemmas,” according to Richard Polenberg, who produced an abridged edition of the hearing transcript in 2002 based on the redacted original. “The Oppenheimer hearing also serves as a reminder of the fragility of individual rights and of how easily they may be lost.”
It further represented a breakdown in relations between scientists and the U.S. government and within the scientific community itself.
“The Oppenheimer hearing claims our attention not only because it was unjust but because it undermined respect for independent scientific thinking at a time when such thinking was desperately needed,” wrote historian Priscilla J. McMillan.
First published in redacted form by the Government Printing Office in 1954, the Oppenheimer hearing became a GPO best-seller and went on to inform countless historical studies.
The transcript has attracted intense scholarly attention even to some of its finer details. At one point (Volume II, p. 281), for example, Oppenheimer is quoted as saying “I think you can’t make an anomalous rise twice.” What he actually said, according to author Philip M. Stern, was “I think you can’t make an omelet rise twice.”
The Department of Energy has previously declassified some portions of the Oppenheimer transcript in response to FOIA requests. But this is said to be the first release of the entire unredacted text. It is part of a continuing series of DOE declassifications of historical records of documents of particular historic value and public interest.
The newly declassified portions are helpfully consolidated and cross-referenced in a separate volume entitled “Record of Deletions.”
At first glance, it is not clear that the new disclosures will substantially revise or add to previous understandings of the Oppenheimer hearing. But their release does finally remove a blemish of secrecy from this historic case.
INSPECTORS GENERAL WITH GUNS, AND MORE FROM CRS
Offices of Inspector General (OIGs) are generally known for performing investigations of executive branch agencies in order to combat waste, fraud and abuse. But many IGs also have a law enforcement function, and many of their employees are armed.
The most recent data available (from 2008) indicate that 33 Offices of Inspector General had a total of 3,501 agents who were authorized to carry firearms, according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service. Intelligence community IGs do not appear to be among them.
Why does the US Department of Agriculture IG, for example, need staff with guns?
Agriculture IG employees regularly conduct undercover operations, according to information that USDA provided to CRS. “The types of investigations conducted by OIG special agents include criminal activities such as fraud in farm programs; significant thefts of Government property or funds; bribery and extortion; smuggling; and assaults and threats of violence against USDA employees engaged in their official duties.” See Offices of Inspector General and Law Enforcement Authority: In Brief, September 8, 2014.
Other new and updated CRS reports that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban-Treaty: Background and Current Developments, updated September 29, 2014
Increased Department of Defense Role in U.S. Ebola Response, CRS Insights, October 1, 2014
Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Progress and Continuing Challenges, CRS Insights, October 1, 2014
Israel’s Iron Dome Anti-Rocket System: U.S. Assistance and Coproduction, CRS Insights, September 30, 2014
Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, updated October 1, 2014
India-U.S. Economic Relations: In Brief, September 26, 2014
Venezuela: Background and U.S. Relations, updated October 2, 2014
Temporary Professional, Managerial, and Skilled Foreign Workers: Legislation in the 113th Congress, September 30, 2014
Reauthorizing the Office of National Drug Control Policy: Issues for Consideration, updated September 30, 2014
Dark Pools in Equity Trading: Policy Concerns and Recent Developments, September 26, 2014
Hydraulic Fracturing: Selected Legal Issues, updated September 26, 2014
Legislative Research for Congressional Staff: How to Find Documents and Other Resources, updated September 25, 2014
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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