Archive for Thursday, March 30, 2006

Fort unit involved in unprecedented posting of intelligence documents

March 30, 2006

Thousands of Iraqi government documents that hold clues to life and work under Saddam Hussein are finding a home in Kansas on their way to an unprecedented disclosure on the Web.

"We're getting them in dribbles and drabbles right now," said Jacob Kipp, director of the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, which is posting the papers online.

Kipp's agency does "open-source intelligence" for the Army, with researchers scouring magazines, newspapers and other unclassified documents from overseas for clues about the military and political intentions of American rivals.

But Kipp hasn't seen anything like the current operation, which is publicizing more than 55,000 pages of documents seized during the invasion of Iraq and is intended to solicit assistance from ordinary citizens for overworked intelligence agencies.

"Most of it is in Arabic," Kipp cautioned, but added: "We're likely to get a very interesting discussion and debate out on the Internet."

The first documents went online in mid-March. That was four months after Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., sent a letter to Intelligence Director John Negroponte, urging him to release the papers to the public.

That letter said that "tens of thousands of boxes" of Iraqi documents had never been "meaningfully" reviewed; Roberts suggested public disclosure might speed the process to analyze possible security threats against America.

"This is clearly a dramatic departure from the norm in terms of how our intelligence community conducts its business to protect America and its public," Roberts wrote with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. "However, the materials that go untouched because of limited resources, expertise and/or time provide us with no useable information."

Nancy Baym, a University of Kansas associate professor of communications, said she'd never heard of the government taking such steps.

"That's ironic, since they also keep a number of documents from seeing the light of day," she said. "This is not a (presidential) administration that's been characterized by open access to information."

She added: "On the other hand, if they really are putting the documents out there, that's a good thing."

Kipp agreed.

"I think it is an opportunity for researchers," he said. "It'll give us better insight into the Iraqi government, Iraqi army, Iraqi society before the war."

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