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US Secrecy Efforts Hurting Scientific Research 224

EnlightenmentFan writes "The new, ultra-vague category "sensitive but unclassified" is being used to stop publication of research, according to this NY Times article (Registration required, but it's free). Bruce Alberts (President, National Academy of Sciences), William A. Wulf (President, National Academy of Engineering), and Harvey V. Fineberg (President, Institute of Medicine) made a joint statement after bureaucrats declared a major NAS report on bioterrorism unpublishable."
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US Secrecy Efforts Hurting Scientific Research

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  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmv ( 93421 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:34AM (#4488676) Homepage
    Time to change the name to "People's Republic of the United States"...
    • by kir ( 583 )

      Yeah! That's... ummm... funny.

      Canada is such a free society! I think I like it.

      http://www.cnn.com/2000/US/01/27/us.canada.border/ [cnn.com]

      • by Glytch ( 4881 )
        Yeah, 'cause after all, our government is always in the habit of arresting visiting US citizens, shipping them off to Syria, and "accidentally" losing track of them.
    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Funny)

      by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:16AM (#4488788) Homepage Journal
      I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands...

      Old news. (-;

    • Re:Wow (Score:2, Funny)

      by capnjack41 ( 560306 )
      Did anyone happen to catch John McCain hosting Saturday Night Live last night? It was classic.

      McCain impersonating Ashcroft: "America won't be free until every American is afraid of being thrown in jail".

  • NY Times... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Keebler71 ( 520908 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:34AM (#4488678) Journal
    Are NY Times articles sensitive but unclassified? Is that why they require a logon?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:35AM (#4488680)
    partner=cmdrtaco [nytimes.com]
  • by EraseEraseMe ( 167638 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:36AM (#4488687)
    Seems analagous to losing your virginity to a prostitute. It's an easy way of getting around to the ultimate goal, but in the end, leaves you quite unsatisfied. ...

    Not speaking from personal experience of course
  • Cliff Stoll (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonman_d ( 465049 ) <nemilar&optonline,net> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:36AM (#4488688) Homepage Journal
    Anyone read the Cookoo's Egg (by Clifford Stoll) lately? He briefly talks about "Sensitive but unclassified" and how it was a problem back then (read the book) when they LACKED such a definition, and the need for one.

    So I guess there's another side to the arguement...who would've thought?
    • Re:Cliff Stoll (Score:2, Insightful)

      Funny you mentioned that, I was thinking the same thing when I read the article.

      I agree with things needing to be considered "sensitive but unclassified" when they are associated with governmental proceedings and plans etc. but I can't say I see the point in doing this with scientific papers primarily because I don't think other countries are going to stop publishing theirs. Whether an American scientist publishes a paper or not, would-be bioterrorists _will_ find a way to do harm. I can't say I see it as a disservice to the human population (nor to other scientists, assuming they still have access to these papers) but I do consider it ethically wrong to censor it.
    • Yes, that's yet another instance where Cliff Stoll is wrong.
  • Googlefied (Score:5, Informative)

    by Blackneto ( 516458 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:36AM (#4488689) Journal
  • by bl968 ( 190792 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:39AM (#4488697) Journal
    Any time you limit speech by placing restrictions on access to information you thus are classifying it. It does not matter that you do not stamp it TOP SECRET if you do not make the information available for public comment and use. This would also be a easy way to hide fraud and abuse from the public eye by making it a breech of ethics to release the information on frivolous but sensitive research.
    • It IS classified, its classified as sensitive, hence unplublishable.

      If i can't read it then its not available to the public, hence its classified. I don't care about thin layers of differentiation. For me, its a binary field, Can-Read (y/n) ... all the layers inside the N, i don't think they really make that much of a difference.

    • by Raiford ( 599622 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @04:38AM (#4488951) Journal
      You have hit upon a point that begs some further analysis. You are absolutely right in your statement that the "sensitive but unclassified" caveat (that's what those things are called by classification authorites) is indeed a defacto means of classifying information. The problem is more insidious than you might think. Under regular classified information (confidential, secret and top secret) and their associated caveats, a prescribed level of protection and rules must be applied to the information. This translates to security containers, custodial inventories and legal bounds about what can and cannot be classified (meaning you can't just classify something to avoid FOIA requests). Additionally the handling procedures and custodial involvement gets pretty expensive.

      Now the "sensitive but unclassified" caveat has none of those requirement and hence none of the traditional restrictions which prevent abuse on the side of classification authorities. Now information can be withheld with impunity without any real accountability.

      • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @12:09PM (#4489904) Homepage
        That's right.

        In the early 1980s, when I worked for an aerospace contractor, I got a memo from DoD vaguely recommending that something be considered "sensitive but unclassified". I wrote back, asking whether this was the Government acting as contracting agent, or was this a statutory requirement? If it was the government acting as contracting agent, we'd be glad to comply, but a formal change order and an additional fee to be negotiated through our contract office would be required. If it was a statutory requirement, we needed to know the legal authority under which it was made, and that should be communicated to our legal department.

        Never heard from those people again.

        Classification is expensive. When bidding, we would estimate that running a project at SECRET instead of UNCLASSIFIED multiplied the cost by roughly 2. You had to get everybody cleared, which takes time and costs. Documents had to be signed in and out and tracked, which costs and slows the project down. You can't outsource much. It's a big pain.

        At TOP SECRET, the costs go through the roof. You work in windowless RF-tight metal-walled rooms with RF-tight airlocks, or you're located at some site in Outer Nowhere. You're always unlocking or locking something. It takes months to get people cleared, and sometimes you have people sitting around doing busywork for months while waiting for their clearances to be processed. Worse, the people working on TS projects get out of date technically because they can't talk to anybody. That's the biggest cost of all. Except in very specialized areas, the highly-classified projects aren't ahead of the state of the art. They're behind.

        • yep !

          Any classified document will have at the bottom of each page at least two lines:

          Classified by:(classification authority inserted here)

          Declassify on: OADR (this is obsolete now, replaced by 10 year rule or other)

          Once this is on there the classfication authority is legally responsible for what is contained in that document and how it is handled and whether it should be classified at all. Not so with "sensitive but unclassified" -> no responsibility.

          I remember at my duty station we had a bunch of tempested IBM PC XT machines in the 80s. These could be used for processing classified information outside of a regular SCIF. To have these things tempested (which was a legacy of the NAVY's procedure for minimizing compromising electronic emmisions from computers) the PC ended up costing about $50k. Then after all that it usually didn't work. All the copper foil encasing the innerds of the monitor caused them to overheat after about 10 minutes. You had to turn them off, let them cool down and then start up again. Those were the days !

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:41AM (#4488701)
    we just remove them! :)
  • Its understandable. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kpansky ( 577361 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:41AM (#4488703)
    I can see why the government might want to keep some of that research limited to the US. The government is doing what it believes to be in its (and in ours to some extent) interest. However, our responsibility is to demonstrate that it is not through whatever means are most appropriate. Im thinking something like civil disobedience or "leaks" would be the most appropriate in cases like this.
    • Im thinking something like civil disobedience or "leaks" would be the most appropriate in cases like this.

      I really hope that you do not have any sort of privileged access to anything worth knowing.

      The problem here is that some of these ideas are obvious: intentionally introducing diseases to US livestock could hurt us - pretty obvious. The same sort of mind that sees a comercial jet as a weapon sees poison and disease as a weapon.

      Some of these things are specific threats: numbers, weaknesses, breeding histories, especially deadly or dangerous disease strains, etc - things only profesional researchers are in a position to discover. Why should this sort of tactical information be published before the government can take action regarding it?

      Or are you just lashing out against W. without thinking? :)

      • I agree. Identifying a threat is one thing; publishing ways to exploit it is another. Much like revealing security problems with an OS or program... is it better to let everyone know that there is a problem but give no details, let everyone know that there is a problem and give the kiddies some big hints on how to exploit it, or play dumb? I don't think that any one of those scenarios is the right answer, and I don't think that the government is going to come up with a solution that will fit all cases. Of course, intelligence has never trusted scientists anyway (sometimes with good reason). It'll be interesting to see how this one plays out. I don't think that anyone is going to be standing in line to take the blame when something bad happens on a farm and people die... something that could have been prevented if the farmer knew what to look for.
      • Anybody who uses a biological weapon would have to be the biggest idiot alive, or have a death wish for all humanity.

      • Some of these things are specific threats: numbers, weaknesses, breeding histories, especially deadly or dangerous disease strains, etc - things only profesional researchers are in a position to discover. Why should this sort of tactical information be published before the government can take action regarding it?

        Unfortunately, this sort of information is not accessible only to professional researchers. Much of it is already on the internet, or published in foreign journals--or even in domestic publications that nobody noticed contained "sensitive" information. (That's actually one of the big problems with a "sensitive but unclassified" pseudocategory--nobody can be sure to what it should be applied, and different administrators will draw lines in different places.

        Also, as long as this material is unclassified, scientists will continue to talk to one another. Most researchers are inherently helpful people, and they love to talk about their work. (It doesn't hurt that showing an interest strokes their egos, as well.) Having spent a large fraction of my working life in academia, this free interchange of ideas is essential, but it is also virtually impossible to secure on an informal basis. In other words, an email to most researchers would probably provide a great deal of useful information--no face to face meeting required, and forget about waiting for publication.

  • by Valar ( 167606 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:44AM (#4488712)
    The most terrifying terrorist act is the threat of a terrorist act.
    • by Tensor ( 102132 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @04:01AM (#4488877)
      The WHOLE point of terrorist attacks is to make ppl live in fear, terrified.

      The attack/act/threat per-se is not the important thing.

      That is why the attack on 09-11 (and the post anthrax threat) was SO effective, it shook ppl out of the safety they lived in into a world of terror. It "made" media blow things up out of proportion to feed that fear. More than 1000 times the deaths of the so called "anthrax threat" are killed every month in violent crimes in the US, so which one is a greater threat, and which one got more publicity, and which one made ppl afraid ?

      Do you see it ?
      • by packeteer ( 566398 ) <packeteer&subdimension,com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @05:04AM (#4488996)
        What really get me is this sniper. Hes killed almost a dozen, maybe more by tonight because i dont follow it every day. But its insane people are canceling trips to the area because of this. Dont they realize they are more likely to die on the airplane (which is slim chances alread)? And jesus christ if they are going to be that safe they better not get NEAR a car. I mean holy god in heaven cars kills bazillions of times the number of peopel snipers do. Its the media nad the fear that gets us. It would not cause a problem in most peoples lives if they didn't let it. But now this has caused trouble for people around the world and the worst part is this; its not even making them safer.

      • (nice username, BTW )

        That is why the attack on 09-11 (and the post anthrax threat) was SO effective, it shook ppl out of the safety they lived in into a world of terror.

        out of their illusions into reality ? a large part of the world does live in fear, famine, wars and genocide.

        More than 1000 times the deaths of the so called "anthrax threat" are killed every month in violent crimes in the US, so which one is a greater threat, and which one got more publicity, and which one made ppl afraid ?

        Hysteria != concern. The media flames and is feeding on the first, but that does not mean one should automatically dismiss the second.

        A threat is not measured just in the current amount of victims/damages, but also by the potential costs and estimated probability. In this regard biowarfare (not anthrax, which is rather weak , but things like smallpox and worse) is IMHO quite a significant threat. Just look at europe of the 14th century for an example of what an efficient plauge can do.
  • Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cyno01 ( 573917 ) <Cyno01@hotmail.com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:45AM (#4488714) Homepage
    Bioterrorism Articles? i'm sure you could find some textfiles [textfiles.com] about it, not to knock textfiles.com or nuthin, but yeah, you could do a lotta damage with a little money and various internet resources
    /flame>
    Stop The Terrorists!, Shut Down The Internet!, Think of the Children!
    /flame>
  • by jacquesm ( 154384 ) <j.ww@com> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:45AM (#4488715) Homepage
    There always will be information that is too sensitive for 'general' consumption, either because the posession of this information can cause harm in the wrong hands or because there is a choice between two 'bad' alternatives, where one of the two alternatives is worse and benefits from the suppression of the information.

    Case in point, during WWII the British had knowledge ahead of time of the Germans plans for the bombing of certain towns in southern England. If they would have warned the locals of the impending attack they would have given away the fact that they had in fact breached the code that protected the high command's communications. So, they allowed the bombardments to continue without any kind of 'early' response in order not to tip their hands.

    This knowledge has been kept secret until very recently...
    • Actually, this is a rather bad analogy.

      The reason the Brits kept that information secret was because the means of collection was secret.

      That's pretty much standard policy amongst all intelligence agencies: Do nothing that will give away how (or that) you know about the enemy's actions. Until you can use the information to cripple him decisively.

      What the Bush administration, OTH, is doing in it's usual ham-handed way, is going through public domain documents and re-classifying them.

      Rather like closing barn doors if you ask me, but then, nobody has ever accused Bush of being intelligent.

      The Bush administration just doesn't get it, a police state is NOT how you handle terrorists. You take away the terrorist's ability to complain by making his country somewhat wealthy. Hard to get recruits when they're all fat, dumb and happy, isn't it?
      • Well, look at it this way: If Alan Turing et al would have published a 'scientific paper' spreading the knowledge about how to go about cracking cypher systems that would have been fine from a scientific point of view, but totally against the national interests of the day. It would have more than likely tipped of the Germans that their communications should no longer be considered secure and given them a tool they could use against the allies to boot.

        And even if such a paper would have been circulated restricting access to it might have helped (but then again if it was realy widely published then I agree with you that would be useless).
        • by jpmorgan ( 517966 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @04:46AM (#4488965) Homepage
          Your argument is moot- you're discussing material officially classified as Secret, Top Secret, or in the case of Alan Turing's work Ultra Secret.

          The problem here is not that the government classifies material for national security, but the 'sensitive, but unclassified' categorization and attempts to browbeat the independent scientific community into not publishing results.

          • Your argument is moot- you're discussing material officially classified as Secret, Top Secret, or in the case of Alan Turing's work Ultra Secret.

            I'm still waiting for the publication of the "Super mega ultra top secret" stuff!
      • This is a fallacy. Saudia Arabia, source of the WTC terrorists, is far from a poor country. Poor people have historically been pretty ineffectual except when they banded together in large groups with lots of help from rich people.

        • by hazem ( 472289 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @05:04AM (#4488994) Journal
          I'm not so sure about this. It is true that Saudi Arabia has a vast oil wealth and generates a great deal of income. But this money is hoarded by the royal family and their close associates. The common man, on the other hand, lives a rather poor and meager existence.

          It doesn't help when all these poor, unhappy people see their rich princes and king associating so much with the West, and particularly the US. It isn't a hard case to make; "you're miserable because the royal family is hoarding the money - see, they have been corrupted by the contact with the West".

          I realize that the Saudi hijackers from 9/11 were mostly well-off and not particluarly poor. But, I would imagine that most of the "foot soldiers" of groups like the Taliban and Al Qua'ida are coming from very poor situations, and they can easily (at least in their minds) trace the cause of their poverty to the US and the West.

          Their poverty not a valid reason to kill people, and I'm not in any way justifying their acts of terrorism. But it's very important to try to understand what THEY see as a valid reason and justification.

          Going back to Saudi Arabia and its wealth... That country (and much of the region) is only one tech-revolution away from being destitute. Once somebody figures out how to economically use hydrogen, or develops a workable fusion reactor, the need for oil as a a fuel source will quickly diminish, and much of the Middle East will lose its relevance in a geopolitical sense. Of course, we'll (probably) always need petroleum for lubrication, petro-chemicals, plastics and some fuel, but definitely not in the volumes it is produced and consumed now.

          In that situation, you'll have even more destitute people who will have old hatreds of the West, which will only be fueled by its prosperity and affluence.
          • by thales ( 32660 )
            Most of the "foot soldiers" of the Taliban were the products of the Saudi religous schools set up in Pakistan for the Afghan refugees. Most of the Al Qaeda "foot soldiers" are university students and from wealthy and upper middle class arab families.


            Marx's economic determinism lacks a model for the Islamic inspired terrorism that is becoming too common. The "Wrongs" that attract recruits to Al Qaeda are the importation of western culture and ideas into Islamic nations. Thety view these as dangrous to thier view of Islamic "purity". Increasing the general wealth of the people in Islamic nations will result in a greater demand for western products and a greater exposure to western ideals. These ideas are a direct threat to the world view of the Wahabist and S'hia Islamic sects.


            Western culture is seductive. People find many of it's ideas attractive. Islamic fundementalists consider ther seductive ideas a danger to the faith, and will consider thier faith under attack as long as there is a single person who has a different world view.


            This is far more than a "war against terrorism". It's a religous war. On one side you have the free thinking ideals of modern western society. On the other a religion that seeks to return to the dark ages. Theier plans are no secrect. To reestablish the calphite with all Islamic nations placed under the religous and secular power of a fundementalist caliph, and for the new Islamic empire to resume the conquests that were underway in the 8th century.

            • by Cerberus7 ( 66071 )
              Your post really makes me wonder where the hell these Islamic "fundies" came from. Just a few centuries ago, the Islamic nations were paragons of culture, art, commerce, and science. Now it seems all they want to do is rip civilization apart and oppress anyone who opposes their views. How did this happen? Or is my view just distorted by my exposure to the media and a history faculty that buttered up Islamic history for me?
      • You take away the terrorist's ability to complain by making his country somewhat wealthy. Hard to get recruits when they're all fat, dumb and happy, isn't it?

        I partially disagree.
        "One of the most fashionable notions of our times is that social problems like poverty and oppression breed wars. Most wars, however, are started by well-fed people with time on their hands to dream up half-baked ideologies or grandiose ambitions, and to nurse real or imagined grievances."


        ~ Thomas Sowell ~

        People like the rich Osama Bin Laden.
    • by mentin ( 202456 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:23AM (#4488808)
      The problem is not existance of sensitive information, the problem is who and how defines what is sensitive. Everybody (well, most) are OK with existance of classified information (created by military or intelligence, as in your case). But when not classified information (i.e. one that was obtained without access to any military secrets or other classified info) becomes "sensitive" and prohibited from publishing, this is an issue.
    • Commonly cited example and a good one. Churchill knew, through Ultra, that the germans where going to bomb Coventry. He couldn't do anything about it b/c, like you said, it would show they had partially cracked Enigma. He had to live with that decision which ended up costing around 25,000 lives... and probably saved 10x that because of the extremely valuable information ultra provided to the allies throughout the war.
    • So, they allowed the bombardments to continue without any kind of 'early' response in order not to tip their hands.

      Not true. There were some close calls, but that never happened. You need to read some of the more definitive works about Bletchley Park, not Higgenbotham's turkey.

      For what it's worth, I toured Bletchley Park two weeks ago. I recommend the visit for anyone into crypto. But go on a weekend, when the experts are there. Check out the Colossus rebuild and the bombe rebuild projects, which are coming along nicely.

  • Researchers Say Science Is Hurt by Secrecy Policy Set Up by the White House

    By WILLIAM J. BROAD

    The presidents of the National Academies said yesterday that the Bush administration was going too far in limiting publication of some scientific research out of concern that it could aid terrorists.

    Specifically, they said, the administration's policy of restricting the publication of federally financed research it deemed "sensitive but unclassified" threatened to "stifle scientific creativity and to weaken national security."

    The category of "sensitive but unclassified" was poorly defined, the presidents said in a "Statement on Science and Security in an Age of Terrorism."

    "Experience shows that vague criteria of this kind generate deep uncertainties among both scientists and officials responsible for enforcing regulations," the statement said.

    Indeed, the policy, experts said, had already resulted in the administration's withdrawing of thousands of reports and papers from the public domain.

    The National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine were created by the federal government to advise it on scientific and technological matters. But the academies are private organizations; they do not receive direct federal financing, but appropriations from the federal agencies for whom they conduct their research.

    The presidents' statement is at least partly a reaction to the institutions' own clash with the policy. Last month, the National Academy of Sciences published a report on agricultural bioterrorism over the objections of the Bush administration.

    In publishing the report, the academy said, it hoped to help American scientists identify ways to bolster the nation's biological defenses.

    "That's one example," said E. William Colglazier, the executive director of the National Academy of Sciences. "There are others."

    The general problem, Mr. Colglazier added, "is not having clear guidelines about what constitutes this sensitive area, because people have different opinions on what should or shouldn't be included. Right now, it's vague and poorly defined. But it shouldn't be just in the eye of the beholder."

    More broadly, the academy presidents said, the government should reaffirm a principle laid down in 1985 during the Reagan administration: that no restrictions are placed upon the conduct or reporting of federally financed fundamental research that is unclassified.

    A successful balance between security and openness, the presidents said, "demands clarity in the distinctions between classified and unclassified research."

    Yesterday's statement was signed by Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences; William A. Wulf, president of the National Academy of Engineering; and Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine.

    Responding to the statement, Gordon D. Johndroe, a spokesman for the White House Office of Homeland Security, said: "We continue to work with the scientific community to strike the appropriate balance between national security information that must be held close and scientific information that should be available for research purposes."

    The tensions began early this year as the Bush administration began taking wide measures to tighten scientific secrecy in hopes of keeping terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. In January, the administration quietly began withdrawing from public release more than 6,600 technical documents that dealt mainly with the production of germ and chemical weapons.

    Then, in a memorandum to all governmental agencies on March 19, Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, urged them to redouble security safeguards. Special attention, he said, should be paid to "sensitive but unclassified information."

    The need to protect information from inappropriate disclosure, Mr. Card wrote, "should be carefully considered, on a case-by-case basis, together with the benefits that result from the open and efficient exchange of scientific, technical and like information."

    Soon afterward, the National Academy of Sciences became entangled in the new policy. The administration asked that an unclassified report it was writing -- "Countering Agricultural Bioterrorism" -- be kept from the public. The report, a two-year, $400,000 study, was being prepared for the Department of Agriculture.

    The report warned that inadequate inspections at the nation's borders and gaps in intelligence data on foreign plant and animal pathogens raise the chance that a terrorist armed with, say, the foot-and-mouth virus, could enter the country and spread diseases that might cripple the nation's livestock and plants.

    After months of discussions, Dr. Colglazier said, the academy published the report in September. He said a few detailed examples of the threats to the nation's food supplies were removed from the published report and placed in an appendix that was not made public.

    "We made our own decision" on what to remove, Dr. Colglazier emphasized.

    In their statement yesterday, the academy presidents called for a dialogue among scientists, engineers, health researchers and policy makers to develop criteria for determining when to classify or restrict public access to scientific information.

    Among their recommendations, they suggested that a determination be made of what research bears on possible new security threats. Principles for researchers, they said, need to address questions like whether some areas of currently unclassified research should be classified in the new security environment.

    The academies, Dr. Colglazier said, "have recognized that it makes sense to restrict public access to some areas of sensitive information that is unclassified," like information about national infrastructures that could be disrupted by terrorist attacks.

    "But the concern," he said, "is that there should be clear guidance on what information would fall into this category."

    • Umm.. Doing this could possibly drive the NYTIMES to make itself a pay site, or at least restrict free access to dead tree subscribers. If you don't want them to have your info, fake it. Log in so they can track how many ads get seen but don't give them any identifying info. Heck, some sites think I'm George Bush.
    • by fortinbras47 ( 457756 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @04:25AM (#4488924)
      Qouting the NY Times copyright notice:

      All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of The New York Times Company. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.

      However, you may download material from The New York Times on the Web (one machine readable copy and one print copy per page) for your personal, noncommercial use only.

      C'mon people. It's not that hard to use a stupid free registration. The Wall Street Journal has a subscription cost, the Economist has a subscription for some articles... NY Times doesn't HAVE to provide free media content, so don't blatantly disregard the law when it's so incredibly easy to follow.

  • News at 11. (Score:5, Funny)

    by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:07AM (#4488764) Homepage Journal
    This is Action 5 reporter Mike Manlee, we are in front of the Metropolis Water Power Generation complex. In these times of terrorism, we want to inform the public of the possible target the power complex. We are informed that the Security guard takes his stroll around the complex at 5-7pm nightly, while the front desk would be un-supervised. This would be the perfect time for a terrorist to attack the power complex.

    Back to you Dan.
    -
    Facts are stupid things. - Ronald Reagan

    • Back to you Dan.

      That's just like when the NBC afflicate in Las Vegas planted an unmarked van on Hoover Dam for an hour at night, to prove that terriorists could blow up the dam. Stuff like that tends to be more effective at panicing the populace and getting a quick, if knee-jerk, reaction out of the security people than pointing terrorists to a now very well known problem.
    • That sounds like a dangerously stupid thing to do... but think about it.

      We know very well that there are lots of easy targets all over the country. Lots. Pointing out one of them doesn't mean much. It might, for awhile, cause it to be somewhat less attractive as a place to attack.

      This actually occured to me during the 1960's, when there were these groups around the country pretending to be violent revolutionaries. But they never attacked any of the obvious easy targets. Occasionally they would talk about it ("Let's throw acid in the resevoir!") in a totally unworkable way, but nobody believed them, because they had so many easy chances, and didn't use any of them. And nobody said anything about it, because as long as people pretended to take them seriously, they were able to believe that they were heroic revolutionaries. I even knew one of these ding-dongs, and he believed in himself. He "hid out", paranoid that the Feds were after him. And collected his welfare check. From the feds. He may have gone so far as to use a fake SSI number, but I wouldn't bet on it. (I figured that it was cheaper than keeping him in a loony bin, and he was harmless.)

      If we had real revolutionaries around, there's a lot of places that would need better security, but I sure wouldn't want the feds in charge of it. It needs to be the responsibility of the people who would be affected. Airport security should be managed by the airlines and the airports. etc. (That wouldn't keep out a surprise attack, but then nothing would.)

      And the appropriate response would be to send in not the air force, but teams of assassins. Target the people who made the decision, not everyone near where they were reported to be five weeks ago. The air force strikes were dramatic, but I don't see any reason to believe that they hit their ostensible target, and that isn't even his country. He probably went back home where it's quieter.

  • by alizard ( 107678 ) <alizard@ecis.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:11AM (#4488774) Homepage

    There are very few places where "security by obscurity" works to protect anyone but the bad guys. If I were a farmer, I might find that report of great personal interest. If I know of a security problem, I might be able to do something about it. Or at least knowing what's on my farm and its surroundings, to know exactly what kind of help to buy or ask for from the Feds. Some answers might be as close as one's county agricultural agent, if one knows what questions to ask.

    Let's put it this way, how would you feel as a netadmin if BugTraq suddenly became "unclassified but sensitive"?

    Should the "War on Terrorism" ever become more serious than "The War on Some Drugs", i.e. more than inconveniece for the average American and an excuse to peck away at more civil liberties of the sort that the terrorist also want to see disappear, the front line of the war starts where we are sitting, we're going to have to protect ourselves, and the most important defense in this kind of war is accurate information.

    Information, i.e. the stuff that Big Brother has decided is none of the public business.

    • If you know about the problem as a farmer you'll be able to help?

      Tell that to all the British farmers who were hit by foot and mouth last year... had only they known! Yeah. Right.

  • by clemfoley ( 540680 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:18AM (#4488791)
    It is quite obvious that the US government is trying to keep America on terrorist alert for as long as they can. By having the "terrorists" disrupting the American way of life in every area possible, ensures public support for the Bush war effort.

    This is overkill!
  • by nurightshu ( 517038 ) <rightshu@cox.net> on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:19AM (#4488796) Homepage Journal

    "Sensitive but unclassified" information is not all that new. When I received my initial security briefing in technical school for the U.S. Air Force in 1998, one of the first things we discussed was the nature of sensitive unclassified information. Basically, the category covers things that are not in and of themselves "Secret" or above, but could cause damage to U.S. and allied mission objectives if widely disseminated.

    For example, the fact that a particular unit is being deployed to a particular overseas base is not classified. However, if combined with other information, it may enable a hostile nation or group to discover operational intentions, which is why we were "strongly encouraged" not to use open phone lines to discuss troop movement orders.

    In some instances, treating certain pieces of unclassified data as sensitive actually helps to protect an individual's personal data. Information gathered by the U.S. Department of Defense on its personnel is covered by the Privacy Act of 1974, which does not inherently make it classified. However, because the data is sensitive, handling and transmitting it with increased care is beneficial for military personnel.

    Although I am as upset as the next person (well, the next clueful person) about the gradual erosion of my rights as a citizen -- as a a matter of fact, I had to explain to my father just yesterday about the dangers of the DMCA, Senator Hollings, and the CBPTDA or CDBTPA or CATBAD or whatever the hell it's called -- I really do feel that this article was a bit of unfounded hysteria. The U.S. government, by dint of its mandate to defend the citizenry through its Executive Branch, is always going to have information that could potentially compromise its intelligence-gathering or war-fighting capabilities. Sometimes, the only thing you can do is acknowledge that fact and search for a story elsewhere.

    • In some instances, treating certain pieces of unclassified data as sensitive actually helps to protect an individual's personal data. Information gathered by the U.S. Department of Defense on its personnel is covered by the Privacy Act of 1974, which does not inherently make it classified. However, because the data is sensitive, handling and transmitting it with increased care is beneficial for military personnel.

      This is exactly the point that you're trying not to make. For some "sensitive" information, laws already exist outside of classification to protect it. (Personal info is protected under the Privacy Act.)

      For other "sensitive" information, no such protection exists. Perhaps it would be appropriate to create another (lower) level of classification, so that what should be protected (and how) is properly codified and not left to the judgement of individual administrators.

      Finally, in the context of bioterrorism, one wonders why this information is necessarily even considered sensitive--access to the pathogens is something that is of far greater concern than simply knowing of their existence. And that access is already regulated.

  • Science? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jeramybsmith ( 608791 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:24AM (#4488811)
    Here are the facts for those who don't want to read all the spin.
    There is a _federally financed_ report on bio-terror.
    The government doesn't want it published because some someone decided the data may be sensitive/dangerous. (for good reason? for bad reason? we don't know obviously).

    There is your dilemma in a nutshell. Is this really a science story? This is a politics story and the person who submitted it had a very misleading lead-in for it. Here is one for you that doesn't imply censorship of private research. "Federal government halts publishing of federally financed report".

    • Re:Science? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ryu2 ( 89645 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:51AM (#4488862) Homepage Journal
      Unfortuantely, for many academic institutions, even private ones, federal funding provides a significant chunk of operating revenue (at my school, a major private research university, it's 25% or so).

      If the feds didn't like what you were publishing, maybe it couldn't censor it directly without going to great legal lengths, but what it could do and probably would do is withhold federal funding. That would mean financial disaster for any institution. It's almost virtual financial blackmail.
    • A squabble over one report on bio-terror--that's the spin a reporter dreamed up, not the story.

      Three of the most-respected US scientists--the heads of three groups that "were created by the federal government to advise it on scientific and technological matters"--have come out with some important and clearcut advice. Let me quote from the story:

      The category of "sensitive but unclassified" was poorly defined, the presidents said in a "Statement on Science and Security in an Age of Terrorism."

      "Experience shows that vague criteria of this kind generate deep uncertainties among both scientists and officials responsible for enforcing regulations," the statement said...

      A successful balance between security and openness, the presidents said, "demands clarity in the distinctions between classified and unclassified research."

      Here is what I see as the heart of the story: If researchers know that anonymous bureaucrats can block publication on any grounds they choose, you are going to see self-censorship that is more dangerous than any external censorship could be. Young researchers especially will stay away from "sensitive" areas, because they have a lot to lose if their work disappears into some bureaucratic black hole.

      The reporter suggests the statement reflects "at least partly" some trouble over a government-financed report about bio-terror.The NAS spokesman denies that report is the issue.

      If the government paid for this research, why can't they suppress it? Most important scientific research is paid for by government--that is, by taxpayers--with the idea that the result of this research could benefit the public. As a taxpayer, I don't want bureaucrats left free to hide any results that don't suit them. I paid for that research, and I'm entitled to know what it said unless there's some very clear reason to keep it secret. Most privately-funded research (Viagra anyone?) is already secret.

      "Is this really a science story?" Some major science guys are calling attention to a government policy that hurts science and scientists directly, and the public only indirectly. But I suppose if you consider any criticism of government on any grounds to be political....

  • Scapegoats (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:25AM (#4488815)
    An important thing to keep in mind is that historically, before any "people's government" was overthrown to allow a dictator to take over, there were always some scapegoats of some sort. Hitler had the bombing of the building (I forget the name, sorry) and the Jews (the Jews are the cause of all of our problems!) and anyone not-aryan. Anyone remember what Caesar had? I only remember that he was declared dictator in a state of emergency, allowed under Roman law at that time.

    These are very trying times, and the dark cloud is almost upon us. Find Chancellor Palpatine in our own congress, and you will find the future of our country.

    It's inevitable. :( Unfortunately, as much as I love freedom, it might well be what this country needs. A good bitch-slapping police state. Balance must be restored, as the old Jedi prophecy tells us, and before it can be restored, there must first be a period of darkness.

    Lucas may just be milking for money, but the movies really do give an interesting view on the current state of affairs.
    • Re:Scapegoats (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dr. Spork ( 142693 )
      The building that Hitler accused the Communists of burning was the Reichstag (I don't know the laterst research, but last I checked, historians thought he may have been right).

      Hitler also claimed that Poland attacked him. I wonder if Bush will make the the parallel perfect by claiming that Iraq attacked the USA, and declare that "starting this morning, we are shooting back" as Hitler said. That would be really spooky!

    • "Anyone remember what Caesar had? I only remember that he was declared dictator in a state of emergency, allowed under Roman law at that time.


      The Tribunes of the Plebs had the power to Veto any action by the Roman government, and thier safety and right to impose a veto was considered sacred under Roman law. Mark Antony was one of the 10 Tribunes, and closely allied with Caesar. (His mother was Caesar's cousin). Mark Antony vetoed a motion by the Roman Senate to strip Caesar of his powers as Governer of Gaul, and was forcibly driven from the Senate along with another Tribune that was allied with Caesar. This provided Caesar with the excuse that he was marching on Rome to protect the Tribunes of the Plebs from the illegal actions of the Senate.

  • Misleading summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ryu2 ( 89645 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:42AM (#4488845) Homepage Journal
    According to the NYT article, the report in question WAS eventually published for the public, just without some specific examples of weakensses cited in the agricultural distribution system (that was in a non-public version).
    • Exactly. Leave it up to the researchers to decide what's safe and ethical to release and what's not. It would take a 500 page federal manual to set the rules for every case... even then it wouldn't work, and no one would read it, so we're back to sqare one. If the feds don't trust their researchers, they shouldn't fund them.
  • Hrm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Crasoum ( 618885 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:42AM (#4488846) Journal
    The tensions began early this year as the Bush administration began taking wide measures to tighten scientific secrecy in hopes of keeping terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. In January, the administration quietly began withdrawing from public release more than 6,600 technical documents that dealt mainly with the production of germ and chemical weapons.

    Haven't we learned by now, that the terrorists already -have- the weapons of mass destruction they need? Faith in their government, ambition, and follow through.

    So how much faith in your government, ambition, and follow through do you have?

    • They don't have a government, they have a religion. Ambition? Maybe... if your goal in life is to blow your guts all over a shopping center and take a few "infidels" with you. Follow through? You can't, you're dead... you just blew pieces of yourself all over the afore mentioned shopping center. In general, I agree with you despite the above sarcasm. But, anything that keeps the religious fanatics among us from acquiring bigger/more lethal means of killing us poor infidels can't be all bad. Changing their fucked-up world view can't hurt either.
      • Al Queda (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Crasoum ( 618885 )
        Fundamentalist religion that held large sway over government, that pressed it's religion saying it is the best. But yes, a religion. You are correct.

        Ambition. It takes a lot of ambition to first off step up to the plate, then die so that you can receive the Martyr's reward.

        Follow through... How many people do you know that'd plan to die for their religion? Their ideas? Then do it? Albeit you are dead, you did follow through with your plan.

        But yes education may help, but is unlikely, if they are raised that way... Look at the various supremacy groups. By and large people think they are wrong, but they were raised that they were right, and everyone else is.

        As for acquiring more lethal means to kill us, a report isn't going to help them get the means. Money is. And with enough people, you can easily raise enough money.

        Then in the case of what happened over a year ago, it just took -ONE- millionaire (Bin Laden)

        "Bin Laden... (has) an inherited fortune estimated to be as much as
        $300 million. [go.com]"
        to cause enough damage.

        Who says one person can't change the world?

  • Fahrenheit 2K2? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jarrettwold2002 ( 601633 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @03:52AM (#4488866)
    The very existence of e=mc^2 is a testament to the benefit of releasing scientific research. Einstein did not recognize the harmful possibilities until much later, however the progress it provided was amazing. A fundamental shift in the understanding of physics occured.
    Revolutionary ideas usually come with dangerous possibilites. If we were to justify ourselves with the statement: "this could be used for harm, let us not tell a soul", my confidence in humanity would be shattered. Progress would be suspended and we would live in an artificial dark age.
    The supposition that a select group of people should be the ones to decide the fate of the whole, is what leads to tyranny and destruction. It is an arrogance of unquantifiable scope, that leads to these type of decisions.
    Forgive me for being a bit idealistic. However, we are seeing a great deal less of idealism and pratical thinking these days. We are seeing more and more of that fearful irrational decision making that precedes great tragedies. The crusades is an example.
    If we keep going down this path do we face a reconstructionist period a bit further down histories trail, were America becomes supremely nationalist and 'glorious' in all it's travels?
    I don't know, but it seems like we are slowly becoming the decaying ghost of the Roman Empire.
  • by fortinbras47 ( 457756 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @04:07AM (#4488891)
    I remember reading Bill Joy's warnings in wired and just laughing at myself that this guy had gone crazy. I have since somewhat changed my mind.

    His general point (I believe it was his...), that the dissemination and democratization of knowledge and modern technology has made possible super powered individuals who are able to leverage the kind of power that was previously only available to nations, rings true. When Clinton fired cruise missiles at Bin Laden, it was the first time that the US had shot missiles and bombed not a country, but an individual. The anthrax attacks appear to a another example of the intersection of powerful knowledge and destructive intent creating significant dangers and disruption.

    Back on the topic of science and this article, I'm not advocating a system that is both useless and obstructing (which the system mentioned in this article might be). But I think we must think about some of these concerns in a reasonable way and think about if there are things to do and not to do which limit dangers while not obstructing useful scientific progress.

    • When Clinton fired cruise missiles at Bin Laden, it was the first time that the US had shot missiles and bombed not a country, but an individual.

      The second, I think Saddam Hussein was the first.

      The anthrax attacks appear to a another example of the intersection of powerful knowledge and destructive intent creating significant dangers and disruption.

      Perhaps true, but you picked another bad example. The evidence revealed so far indicates an individual who had access to US bioweapon stockpiles.

      Anybody can be a major threat given access to the resources of a nation-state.

    • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @06:42AM (#4489168)
      Uuuh... lemme guess--you're not a history major. Do you remember Reagan's attack on Quaddafi (bombing his house)? The countless state-sponsored assassinations of the 50's through 70's? And other stuff? (I'm not a history major either, but everybody who keeps their eyes open knows that Clinton's missilies were not the first US attacks against foreign individuals.

      Well, I just wanted to clear up that factual thing. Otherwise, I think your point about Bill Joy is an interesting one.

    • I understand the general point, but I really think you have to look very hard when anybody suggests that we are safer if knowledge of X is better kept from the general public. Clearly, there are whole categories of specific knowledge that only expose vulnerabilities, and don't help further public knowledge in any helpful way. We know that publishing the existence of security holes in software is generally a good thing because it help admins keep up on and close down vulnerabilities, but we are a little more careful about disseminating the exact nature of potential exploits (at least until there is a good fix). Publishing lists of sights that are vulnerable in a specific way is not helpful. Do we need the government to tell us which is which? I think not.

      I think Bill Joy goes to far as well. The type of information we are talking about is basic science and technology, not specific stuff. The article is really more talking about having clear guidlines of what to publish and what not. Given clear distictions, which the field experts are more qualified to make than the government, people will intelligently self-censor just like we already do with system security issues. That is what happened in the case cited in the article. They pulled a few specific examples to an unpublished appendix. I'm sure that if you have a need to know (i.e. you are in a role where you might encounter the specific threat), you will be able to get the appendix too.

      What Joy is proposing is essentially security through obscurity, and it is a losing proposition. All the social progress that has been made comes from openness, not fear. What is important is that people pay attention to what knowledge is being used for, and what people around you are up to. If a 'fundamentalist' of any stripe can learn a destructive technology without anyone ever talking person to person deeply enough to get a real sense of the them, then there is great danger.

      What this bungled attempt to censor scientific publishing shows clearly is that the administration does not understand that terrorism and protecting ourselves from it is a social problem, not a technical one. You have to trust that most people are well meaning and intelligent enough to contribute to the solution. We all have the same goal, but there is disagreement about methods.

      The FBI doesn't even trust other government agencies enough to share critical information. Their culture is so broken that it is disfunctional, and it is clear to everyone, but nothing happens to change it. It sure would be refreshing to see the director of the FBI say, "We might have been able to stop this. We failed, I'm sorry". I'd trust someone who said this to actually try to fix the problem.

  • by Tensor ( 102132 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @04:09AM (#4488897)
    When will they learn that in almost no situations security-thtu-obscurity protects no one but the "bad" guys ?

    That they will still get the exploitz ? that Saddam has scientists of his own not ? that the publishing of biothreats could make the public more aware to tho them and start taking steps to prevent them?

    That it even could work in the gov's favour, like a guy thinking back and saying hmmm this description fits what the guy sitting beside on the plane back from ---- was carrying in his briefcase.

  • by Cheese Cracker ( 615402 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @04:23AM (#4488919)
    ... bureaucrats declared a major NAS report on bioterrorism unpublishable.

    Former Arthur Andersen emploees now work for the government. The shredders runs 24 hours a day to make sensitive reports unpublishable.
  • by apocalypse76 ( 254086 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @04:31AM (#4488937) Homepage
    The USA should be a free country. Just because we experience a terrorist attack, or any other attack we shouldn't have to give up our freedoms.

    It sickens me when I heard politicians talking about how they would like to pass this bill or that bill to keep so and so crime from happening again. It is like they use the victim to get more support for laws... laws that don't need to exist. The exiting public agencies should take care of the problem by enforcing existing laws.

    Case in point is when I heard a democrat saying we need to pass the bill that will make each gun get "fingerprinted". That would be a total waste of taxpayer money. Once you fire the gun a few times the print changes! They use recent cases like the shooter in Maryland to put more and more restrictions on us.

    This article displays how it's used to keep information from getting out. There is a point where lawmakers should stop and think about what they are doing.
    • If I were ever president (not that it would happen...) I would veto anything congress sent me that did not repeal 3 times the amount of text added. I would also veto anything with an unrelated 'rider'. A bigger problem, I think, is that politicians vote along party lines, and do not read the fucking bills at all! (as evidinced by the "patriot" act and the recent war vote)

      The sheer quantity of laws is ridiculous. We are headed down the road toward a authoritarian police state by selective enforcement of too many laws. The constitution was good. It was short, sweet, and to the point. Most importantly, it can be taught to a high-schooler in a semester. I firmly believe our laws should be that way. One should be able to take a one-semester class and learn EVERY law that applies to you as an individual, be able to pass a test on it, and contractually agree that you understand your rights.

      But we live in a world where the laws you are responsible for obeying fill a room, and ignorance is no excuse.

      On a related note, I think a very interesting project would be to codify laws in an algorithmic format, like computer code. Before a law is passed, it should be tested. Codify it and run it on a computer. Use monte-carlo to throw a million permutations of test-cases at it. The whole body of law should be encoded this way, so that we can algorithmically identify duplicates, and reduce law creep.

      -- Bob

  • 1/2 agreement (Score:4, Informative)

    by automag_6 ( 540022 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @04:52AM (#4488974)
    This sounds bad on the surface, and I was quite against it, then I read the article.

    "In January, the administration quietly began withdrawing from public release more than 6,600 technical documents that dealt mainly with the production of germ and chemical weapons."

    It made me rethink my knee jerk reaction, and I hope everyone does before just shooting from the hip on this one.
    just my $0.02
    • Re:1/2 agreement (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ektanoor ( 9949 )
      Will they reach the extreme of withdrawing warnings that such or such pesticide is highly poisoning?

      Will they forbid the selling of sugar as it can be used as an explosive component?

      Will we be forced to present how much gasoline we spent on our cars, so that no one can be able to use it for Molotovs?

      Will forks and knifes be withdrawn from restaurants and public places to avoid being used as cold weapons?

      Will future generations be lobotomised and genetic enginnered to avoid any natural impulse of violence?

      In the end, will we have a chance to survive?
  • ....PDB (Palm HanDbase) files that were online...the ones with all the locations, etc. of every Atomic/Nuclear power plant in North America? I made sure to grab my copy before they disappeared.
  • Indeed, the policy, experts said, had already resulted in the administration's withdrawing of thousands of reports and papers from the public domain.

    Are you allowed to withdraw things from PD, or is this another case of the US government abusing its power?

  • by lkturner ( 556290 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @07:59AM (#4489276)
    As other people have mentioned, sensitive but unclassified is NOT new. But, no one has mentioned the checks and balances in place - namely the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It's a tool for use by citizens who can request information the federal agencies have not made public. The information is reviewed and some information is not released. I'm guessing that one of the reasons for this category is the additional costs for something to be handled as classified (assumption on my part). Relating it to something most people here are familiar with, computer networks. Would you want someone to have a list of all of your users, their habits, background information on their family, etc? The passwords could be considered "secret", but the other information isn't. An attacker could definitely use the other information to break into your network. It isn't practical to keep the other information "secret", but you can at least tell people not to make a directory containing all that information and send it to the NY Times. Other good examples of sensitive information are unlisted phone numbers, SSNs, etc. This story is just more media hype. Keith
  • by Ektanoor ( 9949 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @08:56AM (#4489362) Journal
    This is not new and it didn't appear yesterday. The sensitive but unclassified data has been around since the end of WWII. Well, it was here before that, but the mood turned crazy after this time. There have been lots of incidents where certain organisations or people used and abused the tactics of information control. In certain cases the incident ended in brutal assassinations of journalists, experts and other people. Such incidents could be frequently seen in Asia, Africa and Latin America during the 60's, 70's and 80's. No I am not talking about wars and coups, but about the secret experiments in certain countries, the secret american base in ex-Zaire, the defoliation in Vietnam, certain aspects of CIA activities in Central America during the Contra's War. We can even note the victims of a few nuclear incidents in ex-USSR, most of them, results of experiments. While a good part of these activities had a top-secret level, other details could not be covered by secrecy (unless you consider people like the Agent Orange victims top secret items). However, agencies tried hard to cover its tracks. Sometimes, in a very harsh manner.

    But even Europe was not exempt of such situation. There is a mistery story about some major soviet expert on nuclear war that suddenly vanished in South Europe after a major scientific congress on the effects of Nuclear Winter. For years, no one and nobody could guess where this guy went to. He vaporised in such way, that both soviet and westerners constantly blamed each other for his vanishment. Some may think this was another Cold War incident. However, this guy seems to had worked on a more perfect model to represent the consequences of a major nuclear war. This work was not secret nor confidential and it seems that he was about to show it to everyone in that congress. However someone made him disappear before he could do it.

    I wonder what will happen if the vague term "sensitive" becomes an official member of the secrecy levels. We could see such thing like: "Well we could tell you the number of victims of unsuccessful nuclear experiment but that's highly sensitive information."
  • While CNN provides How-to instructions on making a dirty bomb.

    Ok time to move.
  • I heard Henry Fineberg speak at the University of Minnesota and he told that us that himself, the other authors, and the federal government reached a compromise where the report on agricultural bioterrorism will be published, but sections containing detailed examples of the means of bioterrorism will be left out. Those sections left out will be available to people who contact the Department of Agriculture and request the information. They, of course, must need the information and have a no-red flag background.

    Salis
  • by jrst ( 467762 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @12:57PM (#4490108)
    Sometime in the last 60's or early 70's (?) there was research into the relative effiency of innovation and R&D in the U.S. and the Soviet Union. I believe the research was conducted in response to similar concerns about some research being sequestered in the U.S.

    While there were many causes cited, one of the most significant conclusions of the paper was that the U.S. was far more efficient because of the openness of the U.S. R&D community. Specifically, that U.S. military research could benefit significantly by adopting a "no secrets" approach. (As you might imagine, that was quite controversial within the DoD community.) And, while the Soviet Union led in certain areas, cross-discipline pollination suffered, as did application.

    All this should be intuitively obvious to anyone who's watched ideas spread and grow, which fosters a virtuous cycle, which is inhibited by secrecy. I'm sure other research has been done in this area by now, but this was the first time (at least that I know of) that it was taken beyond the "inutitively obvious" stage.

    I can't find the paper on the web (my paper copy disappeared long ago), and I don't remember who conducted or sponsored the research, but the findings caused quite a stir and debate which is why I remember it. If anyone out there has a solid reference, I'd very much appreciate it. Thanks.
  • by fritzson ( 546763 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:17PM (#4490469) Homepage
    I haven't seen it mentioned, but this is a Reagan era classification created by Former Admiral John Poindexter (of Iran-Contra scandal fame). Poindexter was hired back into the government by the current administration in February of this year as the new head of the Information Awareness Office. It's no surprise that this label is being misused again.

    Good information about this at Dubya Report [thedubyareport.com], Citizen Times [citizen-times.com] and DS Star [hpcwire.com]
  • Interesting... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Endimiao ( 471532 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @02:22PM (#4490490)
    How long for a new iron curtain betwen USA and the rest of the world? :) Are we about to see a major North American firewall alike China in the forge? The question in everyones mind is: how far can the current administration in the USA can go?

    P.S: War on Terrorism? Nah.. I smell oil
  • All that supression of research does is make it harder for the good guys to research and understand the issues. This isn't much different than the 'security through obscurity' arguments in the computer security field. It's not like terrorists don't do this sort of research. The difference is that the terrorists are free to tell each other about the results of their research.

    If you're not allowed to tell someone that a truck is headed at them, all you end up with is a more surprised victim.

    I really think that this is an issue that we ran into with the cryptography restrictions. Research is protected speech. period.

  • 1940's (Score:3, Interesting)

    by apsmith ( 17989 ) on Sunday October 20, 2002 @10:16PM (#4492542) Homepage
    Other than the vagueness of the definitions, the concept of restricting publication of scientific articles for national security purposes isn't anything new. In the 1940's, there were a number of papers relating to radar and nuclear weapons that could have been published in US-based journals, but which were suppressed until the end of WWII. Sometimes it's a good idea. One of the problems now, however, is it's not clear there will be any "end" to the "war" that would allow these "sensitive" things to be published again!

Ignorance is bliss. -- Thomas Gray Fortune updates the great quotes, #42: BLISS is ignorance.

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