Two years ago, the Central Intelligence Agency announced it was creating a center to analyze the geopolitical ramifications of “phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts and heightened competition for natural resources.”
But whatever work the Center on Climate Change and National Security has done remains secret.
“We completed a thorough search for records responsive to your request and located material that we determined is currently and properly classified and must be denied in its entirety,” (.pdf) Susan Viscuso, the agency’s information and privacy coordinator, wrote Richelson.
Richelson, in a Thursday telephone interview from Los Angeles, said the CIA has not released anything about its climate change research, other than its initial press release announcing the center’s founding.
“As far as I know, they have not released any of their products or anything else,” Richelson said. “There was a statement announcing its creation and that has been pretty much it.”
Steven Aftergood, who directs the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, blasted the CIA’s response to Richelson.
The CIA’s position, he said, means all “the center’s work is classified and there is not even a single study, or a single passage in a single study, that could be released without damage to national security. That’s a familiar song, and it became tiresome long ago.”
When the center was announced, the CIA said it would become “a powerful asset recognized throughout our government, and beyond, for its knowledge and insight.”
President Barack Obama also promised a transparent administration, which he might not be living up to. For instance, in 2009, the Obama administration played the national security card to hide details of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that is still being negotiated across the globe.
What’s more, consider the 33-page report the White House issued Friday, “The Obama Administration’s Commitment to Open Government.” (pdf)
Aftergood said the report “downplays or overlooks many of the administration’s principal achievements in reducing inappropriate secrecy. At the same time, it fails to acknowledge the major defects of the openness program to date. And so it presents a muddled picture of the state of open government, while providing a poor guide to future policy.”
In any case, the Center for Climate Change and National Security might not continue much longer “because of pressure for intelligence budget cuts and resistance from conservative lawmakers.”