Saturday, January 30, 2010


From Secrecy News:


The search for signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe should not only focus on detection of electromagnetic signals, but should also seek evidence of the physical artifacts that an intelligence life form might produce, a scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory suggested in a paper (pdf) last month.

"Searching for signatures of cosmic-scale archaeological artifacts such as Dyson spheres or Kardashev civilizations is an interesting alternative to conventional SETI [Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, which searches for radio waves]. Uncovering such an artifact does not require the intentional transmission of a signal on the part of the original civilization. This type of search is called interstellar archaeology or sometimes cosmic archaeology."

All of this of course is quite speculative, not to say whimsical. "With few exceptions interstellar archeological signatures are clouded and beyond current technological capabilities," the author notes.

But the concept and the logic behind it are explained with pleasant clarity in "Starry Messages: Searching for Signatures of Interstellar Archaeology" by Richard A. Carrigan, Jr., Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, December 1, 2009.

Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News Blog is at:


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Will Congress Ever Inquire?

From Secrecy News...


Last year the Senate Judiciary Committee considered a proposal by Senator Patrick Leahy to establish a formal "commission of inquiry" that would investigate the conduct of the post-9/11 war on terrorism, including detention, rendition and interrogation policies. The record of a Senate hearing on the proposal was published earlier this month, but that seems to be all that remains of it.

"It is not enough to say that America is discontinuing the policies and practices of the recent past," said Amb. Thomas Pickering, one of the witnesses who testified in favor of the idea at the March 2009 hearing. "We must, as a country, take stock of where we have been and determine what was and is not acceptable, what should not have been done, and what we will never do again. It is my sincere hope that the commission will confront and reject the notion, still powerful in our midst, that these policies were and are a proper choice and that they could be implemented again in the future."

While commissions are rarely effective in advancing policy changes, they often serve to produce a detailed public accounting and an expanded documentary record, even when the subject matter is otherwise generally classified. From the Church Committee to the 9/11 Commission, such investigations have provided permanently valuable bodies of knowledge. And from that point of view, the failure to pursue a commission of inquiry to ventilate the persistent controversies of the recent past seems regrettable.

Opponents argued that the commission would inevitably turn into a partisan witch hunt; that it was unnecessary, since the Obama Administration had already pledged to chart a different course; that the Justice Department was responsible for ascertaining if any crimes had been committed, and prosecuting them; and that anyway, it was time to move onward.

"We really ought to follow regular order here," argued Senator Arlen Specter. "You have a Department of Justice which is fully capable of doing an investigation. They are not going to pull any punches on the prior administration."

Senator Patrick Leahy, who sponsored the proposal and convened the hearing, said he would only move the idea forward if there was a bipartisan consensus behind it.

"This idea for a commission of inquiry is not something to be imposed," Sen. Leahy said. "Its potential is lost if we do not join together. Today is another opportunity to come forward to find the facts and join, all of us, Republicans and Democrats, in developing a process to reach a mutual understanding of what went wrong and then to learn from it. If one party remains absent or resistant, the opportunity can be lost, and calls for accountability through more traditional means will then become more insistent and compelling."

No such consensus could be achieved, and the proposal was abandoned.

See "Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry," Senate Judiciary Committee, March 4, 2009.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Selection of Books On The Way...

From Publishers Lunch Weekly...


Sam Hawken's NORTH PASS, about the femicides in Ciudad Juares where over 400 Mexican women have been murdered or gone missing since 1993, to Pete Ayrton of Serpent's Tail, by Svetlana Pironko of Author Rights Agency (World English).


Diana Rowland's SECRET OF THE DEMON, three more books in the series that began with MARK OF THE DEMON, plus three books in a new urban fantasy series about a young woman who is turned into a zombie and takes a job as a morgue technician for easy access to brains, to Betsy Wollheim at Daw, in a six-book deal, by Matt Bialer at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates.


Sex crime prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington D.C. Allison Leotta's LAW OF ATTRACTION, about a 26-year-old lawyer determined to bring justice to men who brutalize the women they love; frustrated and determined when the man she prosecuted for beating the mother of his two children goes free and the woman turns up murdered, she pursues clues to the case, jeopardizing her career, her romance, and finally her very life as she uncovers the horrifying truth about the murderer, to Lauren Spiegel at Touchstone Fireside, for publication in Fall 2010/Winter 2011, by Elaine Koster at Elaine Koster Agency (NA).


Camilla Gibb's THE BEAUTY OF HUMANITY, set in modern-day Vietnam, a country on the brink of momentous change, uniting an old man, who has survived decades of political upheaval, with a young American returned to Vietnam in search of clues about her dissident father's disappearance, to Jane Fleming at Penguin Press, for publication in Winter 2011, by Anne McDermid at Anne McDermid Associates (US).

Steve Martin's novel WOMAN ONE, which "examines the glamor and the subterfuge of the fine art world" in New York, for publication in November 2010, and LATE FOR SCHOOL, for young readers, based on a song from his album The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo, illustrated by C.F. Payne and including a CD, to Deb Futter at Grand Central, by Esther Newberg at ICM.

Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning novel Linden MacIntyre's THE BISHOP'S MAN, to Counterpoint, for publication in the fall of 2010, by the Cooke Agency International.

Foreign rights to Eduardo Hojman at Urano in Spain, by Martina Torrades at Pontas Literary & Film Agency; Sahinpasic in Bosnia; and Sezam in Serbia; on behalf of Random House of Canada and Shaun Bradley of the Transatlantic Literary Agency.


Audrey Hepburn's younger son Luca Dotti's AUDREY AT HOME, written with Alessia Margiotta, an intimate off-stage look at the home life of one of the great film icons of all time, including anecdotes and memories from her family and friends, illustrated with never-before-seen family photographs, scrapbook memorabilia, and personal recipes, to Aliza Fogelson at Clarkson Potter, at auction, by Larry Kirshbaum at LJK Literary Management (World English)‬.


Rajeev Peshawaria's TOO MANY BOSSES, TOO FEW LEADERS, stories of global leadership practice at its best, drawn from the author's experience at Morgan Stanley, Coca-Cola, American Express and beyond, providing a new, synthesized understanding of leadership for the time-starved executive; containing the author's personal interviews with John Mack, Jacqueline Novogratz and CEOs internationally, to Emily Loose at Free Press, in a pre-empt, for publication in Spring 2011, by Lucinda Blumenfeld at Fletcher & Company (World).

History/Politics/Current Affairs:

Markos Moulitsas's AMERICAN TALIBAN, comparing how the Republican Party and Islamic radicals maintain similar worldviews and tactics, from sex to war, from culture to science and education; arguing that progressives hate radical Jihadists for the same reason they hate conservatives -- intolerance, militarism, disrespect for democracy, and a desire to impose their regressive mores on the rest of society, to Peter Richardson at PoliPoint Press, for publication in September 2010 (NA).


Bloggers and journalists Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich's STUFF HIPSTERS HATE, based on their popular Tumblr site, an anthropological guide to the buzzed-about subculture, featuring analysis of the mating habits, habitat, theology, grooming practices and preferred entertainment of the modern-day hipster, with helpful graphs and charts to understand the elusive character of the trendy beast, to Kelly Reed at Ulysses Press, for publication in Fall 2010, by Jason Allen Ashlock at Movable Type Literary Group.

Writers behind Twitter's @FakeAPStyleBook Ken Lowery, Mark Hale, and the Bureau Chiefs' HOW TO WRITE ON THE INTERNET: An Absolutely Phony Stylebook, to Stephanie Chan at Three Rivers Press, at auction, by Kate McKean at the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.


Emmy-winning costume designer of Mad Men Janie Bryant's book on creating your own "leading lady" style, with advice and inspiration on everything from loving your curves to knowing which decade will give you the perfect vintage look, written with fashion journalist Monica Corcoran, to Karen Murgolo at Grand Central, for publication in Fall 2010, by Monika Verma at Levine Greenberg Literary AgencY.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

More Interesting Books On The Way...

From Publishers Lunch Weekly...


Kenneth Harmon's BETTER NOT POUT: A Tale of North Pole Noir, in which a hard-boiled elf is framed for murder in a world that plays reindeer games for keeps, to Ben Sevier at Dutton, in a very nice deal, in a pre-empt, by Scott Miller at Trident Media Group.

Tyler McMahon's HOW THE MISTAKES WERE MADE, about the rise and fall of a punk supergroup in Seattle in the early 1990s, narrated by its tough girl drummer, now known notoriously to fans as "the girl who broke up the band," to Hilary Rubin Teeman at St. Martin's, by Jennifer de la Fuente at Fountain Literary (World).

Peter Geye's YOU WILL COME SAFE FROM THE SEA, in which a father and son reconnect thirty-five years after the father survived the tragic wreck of a Great Lakes ore boat, to Greg Michalson at Unbridled Books, by Laura Langlie (world English).


Lawyer Adam Mitzner's untitled novel, pitched as in the vein of Scott Turow, in which a young New York City criminal defense attorney defends an old family friend who is not what he seems to be, to Ed Schlesinger at Gallery, in a very nice deal, by pre-empt, by Scott Miller at Trident Media Group.


Winner of the 2009 Governor General's Award Kate Pullinger's THE MISTRESS OF NOTHING, based on the true-life story of Lady Duff Gordon and her maid in nineteenth-century Egypt, to Danielle Friedman at Touchstone Fireside, by Anne McDermid at Anne McDermid Associates.

Dominic Smith's AMBER AND GLASS, which takes place in the final years of the 19th century amid Chicago skyscrapers and far-flung Pacific islands - and sets two young men and their cultures on a collision course, to Sarah Branham at Atria, by Wendy Weil at the Wendy Weil Agency.

Francesco Pacifico's THE STORY OF MY PURITY, the first translated novel by this Italian youth sensation, about an ultramontane, unhappily married Roman intellectual who falls under the spell of Jews, gays, MDMA, and beautiful women in nightclub (not exactly in that order), to Lorin Stein at Farrar, Straus, for publication in Winter 2012, by Anna Stein at Aitken Alexander on behalf of Kylee Doust (World English).

NYT bestselling author of COLD Bill Streever's HEAT, in which the author explores the science, history, and culture behind warmth, in an adventurous narrative that tackles fire walking, fever, thermonuclear weapons, the invention of matches, and much more, again to John Parsley at Little, Brown, by Elizabeth Wales at Wales Literary Agency (World).
Arthur Fleischmann with Carly Fleischmann's MY NAME IS CARLY: A Girl Discovers Her Voice, the story of a severely autistic child, diagnosed as mentally deficient, declared unreachable, and described as "a modern day Helen Keller," who was unable to control her impulses, sleep through the night, or communicate at all until she began typing messages to her parents on the computer, conveying to the world how it feels to be "locked in" and revealing her superior intellect, wit and determination to be an advocate for those like her told by her dad and interspersed with Carly's own writings, to Trish Todd at Touchstone Fireside, for publication in 2012, by Linda Loewenthal of the David Black Literary Agency (World).

Arthur Fleischmann with Carly Fleischmann's MY NAME IS CARLY: A Girl Discovers Her Voice, the story of a severely autistic child, diagnosed as mentally deficient, declared unreachable, and described as "a modern day Helen Keller," who was unable to control her impulses, sleep through the night, or communicate at all until she began typing messages to her parents on the computer, conveying to the world how it feels to be "locked in" and revealing her superior intellect, wit and determination to be an advocate for those like her told by her dad and interspersed with Carly's own writings, to Trish Todd at Touchstone Fireside, for publication in 2012, by Linda Loewenthal of the David Black Literary Agency (World).


Amy Huntington's SLEEPWALKING, centering around an American teenager attempting to rebuild her shattered life after the death of her parents, to Tara Weikum at Harper Children's, in a pre-empt, in a three-book deal, for publication in Summer 2011, 2012, 2013, by Stacey Glick at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (World English).


Eric Rutkow's OUT OF THE WOODS: How Trees Shaped America and America Shaped Trees, about how a land of "mightie greate wooddes" (according to an early explorer) grew into a great nation in no small part because of those very woods, showing how from birth to expansion to industrialization, in peacetime and in war, through ages of razing and clearing and conserving and preserving, trees have shaped the United States, and how, in turn, the people of America - settlers, explorers, builders, consumers, protectors, and scholars - have shaped trees just as surely, to Colin Harrison at Scribner, by Eric Simonoff and Eric Lupfer at William Morris Endeavor (NA).

Freelance journalist (GQ, The Atlantic, Harper's, Time) Peter Savodnik's THE INTERLOPER: LEE HARVEY OSWALD INSIDE THE SOVIET PERPLEX, a carefully reported historical account of the two-and-a-half years JFK's assassin spent in the Soviet Union, showing that he was a tragic man in search of stability and meaning, whose experience reflected powerful emotional and political currents already coursing through the American consciousness, to Lara Heimert at Basic, in a very nice deal, by Ted Weinstein at Ted Weinstein Literary Management (World English).


NYT bestseller BUY KETCHUP IN MAY AND FLY AT NOON author Mark Di Vincenzo's THERE'S WOOD IN YOUR TURKEY BACON: And 333 Other Fascinating Facts That Will Make You Smarter, Safer and Healthier, to Kate Nintzel at Harper, in a very nice deal, by Michelle Wolfson at Wolfson Literary Agency (World).


NYT bestselling author Don Van Natta's biography of Sid Gillman, regarded by his peers as the most creative mind in football, and his three dozen disciples -- among them John Madden, Chuck Noll, Joe Gibbs, Dick Vermeil, Bill Walsh, Tony Dungy, Bill Belichick, Jon Gruden, and Mike Tomlin -- who, by applying his revolutionary theories, have combined for an incredible twenty Super Bowl victories, to Geoff Shandler at Little, Brown, by Christy Fletcher at Fletcher & Company.


Monday, January 04, 2010

A Million Pages of Secrets A Year....

From Secrecy News...


There has been almost no criticism of the new Obama Executive Order on national security classification, which itself is kind of troubling.

For a full-throated denunciation, one has to turn to the outer periphery of, which argues that declassification of historical editions of the President's Daily Brief "will render impotent one of the intelligence community's most vital tools." ("Obama Imperils Intel Briefings," by Theodore Kettle,, January 3.)

A more cogent complaint, put forward by PRI's show The Takeaway on December 22, is that creation of a National Declassification Center "will actually delay the declassification of 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents," because these were already subject to a December 31, 2009 deadline, which has now been eliminated.

As previously reported ("New Executive Order Aims to Avoid Declass Deadline," Secrecy News, November 23, 2009, and by the Boston Globe, Nov. 29, and the Associated Press, Dec. 20), there was a December 31 deadline for automatic declassification of historical records that required referral to more than one agency, and this deadline created some urgency for completion of the new Executive Order, which superseded it.

But even if the deadline had come into effect, officials told Secrecy News, the affected pages would still not have been released to the public. They said this was so for several reasons.

First, no one knows where those pages are. There are perhaps as many as 100 million pages (not 400 million) that have been referred from one agency to another for declassification review, but they are not systematically tracked and so they could not be systematically released.

Second, Congress has effectively barred bulk declassification and disclosure by means of the 1999 Kyl-Lott Amendment, which required the painstaking review or certification of all declassified records to ensure that they do not contain any inadvertently released nuclear weapons-related information. (If Congress wanted to facilitate declassification of historical records, repeal of the Kyl-Lott Amendment would be a good place to start.)

Third, the National Archives lacks the capacity to process large volumes of declassified records for public release. Even if fully declassified, the affected records would take years to process for disclosure to the public.

In short, the declassification program is seriously messed up, and it has been for many years. The new National Declassification Center may help to straighten it out. Significantly, the President ordered that the present backlog of 400 million pages shall not only be declassified over the next four years but also "shall be addressed in a manner that will permit public access to all declassified records."

To make good on this commitment, the Obama Administration is said to be considering a significant increase in its request for declassification funding for FY 2011.

Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News Blog is at: