Public Accountability Is Going Down
File this under "Two steps forward, one step back."
Secrecy News highlights a change in disclosure policy by several federal defense intelligence agencies in anticipation of last week’s launching of USAspending.gov. Claiming that online disclosure of their unclassified contracts would compromise security, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) asked the Department of Defense for and received permission to keep the documents secret. "I appreciate your concerns that reporting these actions to the publicly accessible website could provide unacceptable risk of insight to your individual missions and budgets," wrote Shay D. Assad of the Under Secretary of Defense in a December 7 memorandum (pdf). "But when it comes to intelligence spending, there will actually be a net loss of public information because categories of intelligence contracting data that were previously disclosed will now be withheld," writes Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News editor.
The waiver applies to unclassified contract data for FY 2007 and 2008, and must be renewed each following year. However, data from FY2005 – 2006 for two of the agencies, DIA and NGA, is not covered by the waiver and is available. Go figure. Data from CIFA is not available. As Secrecy News says, while there is a sharp increase in intelligence agencies contracting with private entities, "public accountability is going down."