WHAT'S NEW, Friday, 22 December 1989 Washington, DC
PRESIDENT BUSH HAS DEFIED CONGRESS ON SECRECY AGREEMENTS.
appropriations bill signed by the President on 3 Nov 89 included
a specific prohibition against use of the Classified Information
Nondisclosure Agreement, Standard Form 312. In signing the bill,
however, the President questioned the constitutionality of the
provision, arguing that it impeded his responsibility to protect
classified information. Steven Garfinkel, the director of the
Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), thereupon issued an
order to continue using SF 312, in defiance of the restriction
imposed by Congress. In a Congressional hearing on Wednesday,
Garfinkel demonstrated his mastery of nondisclosure by refusing
to reveal the names of Bush Administration officials with whom he
consulted before issuing the order. The unusual recess hearing
was called by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), who questioned the
constitutional authority of the Executive Branch to flout a law
that had been passed by Congress and signed by the President.
The disagreement between Congress and the Executive Branch over
nondisclosure agreements goes back more than six years. President
Reagan, infuriated over Administration leaks, issued his infamous
National Security Decision Directive 84, calling for, among other
things, expanded use of secrecy pledges. But one person's leak is
another person's act of conscience, and Congress saw the pledges
as an unconstitutional attempt to discourage whistle-blowers. The
President seemed to back off, but a new nondisclosure agreement,
SF 189, was issued in 1987 which even applied to "classifiable"
information; that could include almost anything. Congess barred
further use of SF 189 in 1988, but three million had already been
signed. It is replaced with SF 312, which dropped "classifiable,"
but substituted the phrase "unclassified information that meets
the standards for classification." Congress didn't like that much
better, particularly since potential whistle-blowers also agree
to ask an "authorized official" whether unclassified information
they want to reveal might be classified someday. That brought on
the current constitutional debate, which seems headed for the
courts. Some individuals are reportedly refusing to sign SF 312.
. CONGRESS WANTS TO KNOW HOW NSF ALLOCATES IT RESOURCES.
The Science, Space and Technology Committee of the House has asked
the NSF to provide a report by 31 Jan 90, describing how the
directorates set their priorities, and how allocations are made
between directorates. NSF is also asked to describe the efforts
it makes to solicit the views of such groups as scientific
societies. The Committee warns that in the hard times to come NSF
will confront tough choices. Congress now requires NSF to submit
three-year budget estimates, but the SS&T Committee complains
that, "Unfortunately, the initial submission contains no evidence
of a prioritization process. The rates of funding increase for
individual scientific directorates are essentially identical."
Actually, the NSF budget process is simple, Erich Bloch decides.