The Secrecy News blog at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) reported today that FAS decided to remove a DHS report on MANPADS (which I wrote about last week) in response to a lthreatening letter from a DHS lawyer:
A July 31 Department of Homeland Security report to Congress on the status of defenses against shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles was removed from the Federation of American Scientists web site after DHS objected to its publication.
DHS urged that the unclassified report, marked “For Official Use Only,” be taken offline and, upon consideration, we agreed to do so.
“The Report has never been released by DHS to the public because it contains sensitive information such as the transition of military technology for potential civil use, systems performance of the prototype systems being developed by DHS and its partners, and the reliability of such prototype systems,” wrote DHS deputy associate general counsel William H. Anderson.
“Due to the sensitive nature of the Report, I request that your organization immediately remove the Report from its website.”
“If the Report is not removed from your website within 2 business days, we will consider further appropriate actions necessary to protect the information contained in the Report,” Mr. Anderson wrote in an August 9 letter.
The letter from DHS refers to DHS Management Directive 11042, which governs the control and distribution of sensitive-but-unclassified (including FOUO) materials from DHS. But this directive does not deal with legal controls on third-party dissemination of FOUO materials, so the DHS statement that “we will consider further appropriate actions” seems to me like a hollow threat. I’m surprised that FAS capitulated to this request, since there was nothing in the report that discussed system performance and vulnerabilities (the report mentions that a classified annex contains this information). And I’m surprised that DHS thinks that it’s even feasible now to control this information. After all, the report has already been downloaded thousands of times, is still available in a Google cache, and has now been widely reported on in the media.