Archive for July 3rd, 2014


Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Steven Aftergood kindly allowed me to reproduce his article here.

*SECRECY NEWSfrom the FAS Project on Government SecrecyVolume 2014, Issue
No. 44
June 30, 2014
*Secrecy News Blog:



In 2012, former Navy linguist James F. Hitselberger was indicted
on two felony counts under the Espionage Act statutes after several classified documents were found in his possession. In 2013, a superseding indictment
charged him with another four felony counts.

But in the end, Mr. Hitselberger pleaded guilty
this year to a single misdemeanor charge of removing classified documents without authorization.

Now both the defense
and the prosecution
are endorsing Hitselberger’s request that any jail penalty be limited to the time he has already served, including two months in DC jail and eight months of home confinement. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 17.

Despite the stark disparity between the multiple felony counts with which Hitselberger was charged, and the single misdemeanor of which he was convicted, the prosecution said that it had no second thoughts about the way the matter was handled.

“It is important to note that the government’s case against Mr. Hitselberger did not collapse,” prosecutors said
in a June 27 sentencing memorandum. To the contrary, prosecutors wrote, “in several ways, the government’s case became stronger than what it had been when the charges were first obtained.”

Defense attorneys disputed that assertion and said the government had overreached.

“At a minimum, the evidence demonstrates that the government significantly overcharged the case, and the guilty plea to a misdemeanor not only was the appropriate result, but also demonstrates how the offense should have been charged from the beginning,” the defense wrote in a June 27 reply

The mountain of Espionage Act charges that yielded a molehill of a misdemeanor in this case recalls a similar progression in the prosecution of former NSA official Thomas Drake, where ten felony counts gave way
to a technical misdemeanor. This recurring pattern may indicate that overcharging is a standard prosecutorial approach to such cases, or that the judicial process is effectively winnowing out excessive felony charges, or perhaps both.

A June 26 sentencing memorandum submitted by the defense
presented its own account of the facts of the case, along with several moving testimonials from Hitselberger’s friends and relatives as to his character.

In another pending Espionage Act case, the Obama Administration must decide if it will pursue a subpoena against New York Times reporter James Risen.
For a current update, see Reporter’s Case Poses Dilemma for Justice Dept.
by Jonathan Mahler, New York Times, June 27.


Those who are involved (or merely interested) in the field of geospatial intelligence will want to know about a new Army doctrinal publication on the subject.

“Geospatial intelligence is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the earth. Geospatial intelligence consists of imagery, imagery intelligence, and geospatial information.”

The new publication provides a comprehensive introduction to the theory and practice of the field. See Geospatial Engineering
,ATP 3-34.80, June 2014 (very large pdf).


The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released

the “2013 Statistical Transparency Report” detailing the frequency of use of various intelligence surveillance authorities and the estimated number of targets affected by the surveillance.

While the reported numbers give some rough sense of the scale of intelligence surveillance — civil liberties groups said the estimated numbers are bound to be misleadingly low — the report provides no basis for evaluating the utility or legitimacy of the surveillance activities.

How many of the collection activities were authorized on the basis of erroneous information? How many actually produced useful intelligence? The report
doesn’t say, and the raw numbers are not a substitute. If they were ten times higher, or ten times lower, we would be none the wiser.

(A supplemental response
from ODNI to Senator Wyden was released

See U.S. Phone Searches Expanded in 2013
by Siobhan Gorman, *Wall Street Journal*, June 27, and related coverage elsewhere
,Huffington Post

From a secrecy policy point of view, perhaps the most intriguing feature of the new release is the unconventional timing of its declassification. The report
is dated June 26, 2014 and was classified at the TOP SECRET/NOFORN level. But it says it was declassified by DNI Clapper three days *earlier* on June 23, 2014!

This temporally fluid approach to declassification could have many useful applications.

Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation
of American Scientists.

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Steven Aftergood
Project on Government Secrecy
Federation of American Scientists
email: saftergood[at]
voice: (202)454-4691
twitter: @saftergood


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