University of Pittsburgh
January 27, 2008

National Security or Cover Up? Pitt Lecture to Focus on What Constitutes Just and Wrongful Government Secrecy

Senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists to discuss when classified information protects the country or hides incompetence
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—Government secrecy is necessary in many matters of national security, but classifying information often is misused to shield incompetence and evade accountability, says Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), a nonprofit national organization of scientists and engineers concerned with national security policy.

Aftergood presents his lecture, "The Challenge of Government Secrecy," Feb. 4 at 4:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Frick Fine Arts Building on Schenley Drive in Oakland. The free public lecture is hosted by the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Information Ethics and Policy in the School of Information Sciences in partnership with the Johnson Institute for Responsible Government in Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Aftergood will discuss both the just and wrongful classification of information in such current controversies as domestic surveillance and the detention and interrogation of suspected enemy combatants. He will focus on the friction between impulsive government secrecy and such societal values as freedom of the press, democratic decision-making, and government accountability.

Aftergood specializes in national security information and intelligence policies at FAS and directs the FAS Project on Government Secrecy, which works to reduce the scope of official secrecy and reform governmental security practices. He is an electrical engineer by training and has published research in solid-state physics. He joined FAS in 1989.

In 1997, Aftergood was the plaintiff in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency that led to the declassification and publication of the total intelligence budget—$26.6 billion in 1997—for the first time in 50 years. In 2006, he won a ruling against the National Reconnaissance Office requiring that agency to disclose unclassified budget records.

For his work in combating undue secrecy, Aftergood has received the James Madison Award from the American Library Association (2006), the Public Access to Government Information Award from the American Association of Law Libraries (2006), and the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award from the Playboy Foundation (2004).

Aftergood writes and edits "Secrecy News," an e-mail newsletter and blog read by more than 10,000 subscribers in the media, government, and general public.

For more information, visit the School of Information Sciences Web site at