House passes law to improve sharing of threat information

From the Associated Press:

Legislation passed by the House Tuesday (H.R. 553) would require DHS to produce a declassified version of threat information for state and local first responders who don’t have the security clearance to view classified material.  The measure would also require portion marking, where certain classified parts of a document might be blacked out but the rest of the information would remain unclassified.

Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists, said the Harman bill sends an important message that classification should not be a barrier to keeping local officials informed about threats.  But he said the bill doesn’t cover the CIA or the Pentagon, the biggest sources of classified data. “This is not the systemic change that we need but it is an urgent part of the larger problem and I hope it will elevate classification reform in the administration agenda.”

The bill, which passed by a voice vote, passed the House in the last session of Congress but wasn’t taken up by the Senate.  The bill now goes to the Senate.  I’ll update this post as the bill status changes.

Intel chair says White House withholding info in interrogation probe

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), accused the White House on Wednesday of withholding documents showing it authorized the CIA to use waterboarding and other tough interrogation tactics on suspected terrorists.

Rockefeller was reacting to a report in Wednesday’s editions of The Washington Post that two White House memos, in 2003 and 2004, gave the CIA written approval for using specific interrogation techniques on al-Qaida suspects.

“If White House documents exist that set the policy for the use of coercive techniques such as waterboarding, those documents have been kept from the committee,” Rockefeller said in a statement.

The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, called the report old news, and the White House declined to comment.

A former senior Bush administration intelligence official told The Associated Press that the White House “definitely, without a doubt” authorized the CIA’s interrogation techniques. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly, was not aware of the memos but said the CIA sought approval for specific methods to protect it from any questions later about their legality.

In March, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have outlawed the use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques during CIA interrogations of terror suspects.