Army Reins Access to Weapons Papers

Article excerpt

Byline: Rowan Scarborough, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Army has tightened controls over the public release of documents pertaining to stocks of weapons of mass destruction, an internal memo shows.

The new directive comes amid media inquiries into Defense Department facilities that house the deadly anthrax virus. It also comes during a general crackdown by the Bush administration on the publication of material that could help an enemy build and deliver mass-death weapons.

Army commands in the United States and around the world had enjoyed flexibility in acting on requests for information under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

But in a Feb. 11 memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, the Army tells personnel not to release the information until the Department of the Army reviews the request and the documents to be released.

"When processing the request, if a decision is made that certain documents are releasable under the FOIA, please forward the initial request and the documents identified as releasable to this office for further review prior to releasing the information," says the memorandum from the Army's Records Management and Declassification Agency at Fort Belvoir. "We are not telling you not to release any requested documentation dealing with this topical material. We are saying that it should not be released without our review."

Historically, local commanders have had wide latitude to release records under the information law. Some Army personnel privately expressed fears the memo is an effort to cut down on the flow of information to the media and researchers at a time when Army weapons labs are suspected of being the source for the anthrax that killed five persons.

But Bush administration officials said in interviews that the memo is not an effort to foil reporters, but rather a precaution against releasing weapons information that could help terrorists. …