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Talking with our Lips Sealed

The Transportation Security Administration held an open meeting last week with aviation and security representatives to discuss a new report on air cargo security, but kept attendees from discussing details of the report during the meeting, the Washington Post reports. And, citing sensitive material, the agency refused to release the report. Not much to talk about, is there?

On another quiet front, pilots critical of the TSA's plan to arm them have been barred from talking to the media about their concerns. The agency invites journalists to talk with pilots who support the program, even to tour its pilot arming and screener training programs, but pilots' groups say critics are not allowed speak out.

Posted 10-10-2003 2:10 PM EDT

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Card up the Sleeve?

Four U.S. Senators are complaining that the Justice Department's investigation into the leaking of a CIA operative's identity could already be compromised. The Washington Post reports that White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department were too slow to order employees to preserve records that could be relevant to the investigation. Columnist Robert Novak printed the covert operative's name after her husband, Joseph Wilson IV, became a vocal critic of claims the Bush administration had made to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Also, Gonzales plans to act as gatekeeper for all evidence that employees do turn over, and he hasn't ruled out the possibility of withholding documents under a claim of executive privilege.

Posted 10-10-2003 12:58 PM EDT

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Access Denied

The Defense Department has denied public access to its Internet database of department policies and procedures, according to Secrecy News, an electronic publication of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Project on Government Secrecy. This unclassified information has been publicly available on the Internet since the Pentagon launched its Web site. But now the database has been restricted to official users only.

"If this represents a permanent change, it is a shocking development," private researcher Robert Todd told Secrecy News. "I can't believe they've gone overboard like this." Much of the information may still be found on other Web sites, including on the FAS Web site. 

Posted 10-09-2003 3:02 PM EDT

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That's Classified

That national security adviser Condoleezza Rice will take over the lead role in the reconstruction of Iraq was news to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to The Washington Post. He didn't find out about the switch until he received a classified memo about it from Rice. Rumsfeld, citing the memo, said it looks like Rice's job has been restated to coordinate efforts among different departments and agencies. "Unfortunately, it's a classified memo. It shouldn't be. There's nothing in it that's classified," he told the Post. "I kind of wish they'd just release the memorandum."

The White House shuffle comes amid concerns in Congress that the reconstruction effort was poorly planned and more expensive than lawmakers had anticipated.

Posted 10-08-2003 3:36 PM EDT

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Privileged Information?

It may take a couple of weeks for the White House to hand over all the documents requested by Justice Department lawyers investigating the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to conservative columnist Robert Novak and other journalists,  the Los Angeles Times reported. Why the drawn out process? Some suggest it's because the White House might be considering invoking executive privilege to protect some of the materials. "They will read through everything that is provided, and make an assessment whether there is anything in there that is potentially privileged," Beth Nolan, a White House counsel in the Clinton administration, told the Times.

The Justice Department is looking into allegations that a senior Bush administration official leaked Plame's name to get back at her husband, former envoy Joseph C. Wilson IV, for criticizing Bush's Iraq policy. Wilson disproved the administration's claims that Saddam Hussein had tried to obtain African uranium. Bush cited the allegation anyway in his State of the Union address in January.

Posted 10-08-2003 3:10 PM EDT

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New Sheriff in Town?

Seeking greater accountability from the Bush administration, the Senate passed an amendment requiring that all future contracts to rebuild Iraq be awarded via an open and competitive process, The New York Times reported. The amendment is one of several proposals that could be tied to President Bush's $87 billion spending request for Iraq and Afghanistan. Lawmakers in both parties aren't happy with the information about how the administration spent the $79 billion they approved in April. Prior to the war, Halliburton Co. was given an open-ended, no-bid contract potentially worth billions of dollars.

Sen. Ron Wyden, who sponsored the amendment with Sen. Susan Collins, said the lack of information provided by the administration was like a blank account statement from the bank, the Times reported. "Up to now, it's been like Dodge City before the marshals showed up."

Posted 10-03-2003 4:31 PM EDT

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Zero Bang for Buck

After seven months of unsuccessful searches for Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration has a new plan: Let's spend more money. Tucked away in a classified section of President Bush's $87 billion spending request for Iraq and Afghanistan expenses is a request for $600 million to continue searching for chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, according to The New York Times. The Pentagon declined to comment on the classified request. If approved, the total price for the search will be about $1 billion.

Since the search for WMDs has thus far proved fruitless, Americans might be wondering how the administration plans to spend the extra money. After all, "it's your money," not the government's, as Bush is fond of saying.

Posted 10-02-2003 12:05 PM EDT

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Fill in the Blanks

The White House has refused U.S. Sen. Bob Graham's request to declassify part of a congressional report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to Reuters. The 900-page 9/11 report, released by a joint intelligence committee in July, has 28 blank pages that reportedly include details of Saudi Arabia's involvement in the plot.

Graham and Sen. Richard Shelby served on the committee, and Shelby is on record as saying that "95 percent of that information could be declassified, become uncensored so the American people would know."

Posted 10-02-2003 12:02 PM EDT

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