Steven Aftergood

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Steven Aftergood (born 1956 in Los Angeles) is a specialist in physics and a political activist. He is a critic of U.S. government secrecy, generally favoring more openness. He directs the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy and is the author of the Federation blog/newsletter Secrecy News.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Aftergood has a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles (1977) and has published research in solid-state physics. He joined the FAS staff in 1989.[2]

He spent years advocating against an operating research nuclear reactor at UCLA with the Committee to Bridge the Gap. Public protests led to its shut-down.[3]

In 1991, Aftergood exposed the highly classified Project Timberwind, an unacknowledged U.S. Department of Defense special access program to develop a nuclear thermal rocket.[4]

In 1997 he was the plaintiff in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency which led to the declassification and publication of the U.S. government's total intelligence budget ($26.6 billion in 1997) for the first time in fifty years.[5]

In 2006, Aftergood won a FOIA lawsuit against the National Reconnaissance Office to release unclassified budget records.[6]

In 2009, his article "Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works" appeared in the Yale Law & Policy Review.[7]



Aftergood was among the earliest critics of WikiLeaks. Although he has published thousands of leaked documents on the Secrecy News blog he runs for the FAS, he turned down an invitation to join WikiLeaks' board of advisers. Instead he strongly criticized WikiLeaks and its leader, Julian Assange.

"I would say also that WikiLeaks is a response to a genuine problem, namely the over control of information of public policy significance," Aftergood said.[8] However, he added, "If you are a Mormon or a Mason or a college girl who is a member of a sorority with a secret initiation ritual..they will violate your privacy and your freedom of association without a second thought."[9] In a later article on the Secrecy News blog, he acknowledged that "WikiLeaks has published a considerable number of valuable official records that had been kept unnecessarily secret and were otherwise unavailable, including some that I had attempted and failed to obtain myself." However, he stated that "WikiLeaks must be counted among the enemies of open society because it does not respect the rule of law nor does it honor the rights of individuals".[10]


He received the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer Award in 2010.[11]

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^ Dana Priest (November 26, 2003). "One Man Against Secrecy; Newsletter Editor Works to Limit Classified Information". Washington Post. 
  2. ^ "Steven Aftergood". Federation of American Scientists. 
  3. ^ UCLA Reactor Dismantled, Carted Away Bit by Bit, Robina Luther, United Press International via the Los Angeles Times, February 28, 1988 (retrieved on September 27, 2012)
  4. ^ William J. Broad (April 3, 1991). "Secret Nuclear-Powered Rocket Being Developed for 'Star Wars'". New York Times. 
  5. ^ FAS Wins Lawsuit Against CIA on Intelligence Budget Disclosure, CIA Statement, 15 Oct. 1997.
  6. ^ National Reconnaissance Office Yields to FAS Lawsuit, von Steven Aftergood, 21 Dec. 2006.
  7. ^ Aftergood, Steven (2009), "Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works" (PDF), Yale Law & Policy Review, 27: 399–416, retrieved 2014-02-01 
  8. ^ McGreal, Chris (2010-04-09). "Who watches WikiLeaks?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-04-13. 
  9. ^ Who watches WikiLeaks? The Guardian, April 10, 2010 (retrieved on September 27, 2012)
  10. ^ Aftergood, Steven (June 28, 2010). "Wikileaks Fails "Due Diligence" Review". Retrieved September 27, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Transparency Activist, Public Domain Scholar, Legal Blogger, and Imprisoned E-Voting Researcher Win Pioneer Awards". October 19, 2010. 

External links[edit]