Jeffrey LewisBullsh*t Gag Order on India

Want to know one reason that I hate the US-India nuclear deal?

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs asked 40 questions about the US-India Nuclear Deal, to which the State Department provided unclassified answers that it refuses to release to the public.

Daryl Kimball and Sharon Squassoni, now joined by Fred McGoldrick and Henry Sokolski, have been asking the State Department to drop what described as a “gag order” and release the responses.

That would be offensive enough, of course, but the story got more irritating today.

Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Union of Concerned Scientists organized a panel for the 27 EU Political Counselors at the Embassy of Slovenia tomorrow with speakers from the State Department to discuss the US-India nuclear deal and the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. (See the full text of the invite that went out last week, below).

The State Department has now uninvited PSR and UCS to their own meeting — or at least the portion about India — because they will be sharing “sensitive” information.

I’d really like to know what sort of “sensitive” information can be shared with 27 foreign nationals, but not US citizens.

Invitation to the EU Political Counselors’ Panel Discussion on


Ms. Jill Marie Parillo
Deputy Director of Security Programs, Physicians for Social Responsibility

Mr. Edward McGinnis
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Corporate and Global Partnership Development, Office of Nuclear Energy, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Mr. Richard Stratford
Director, Office of Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, Dept. of State

Mr. Jack Spilsbury
Director, Regional Affairs Office, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Dept. of State

Mr. Anish Goel
Regional Affairs Officer, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Dept. of State

Dr. Edwin Lyman
Senior staff scientist, Global Security Program, Union of Concerned Scientists


  1. RT (History)

    Not sure what exactly the information is but I get a sense that this meeting is part of setting the stage to any NSG proposal that the US plans to make vis-a-vis India. In that context, it is more important to court foreign nations than it is to assuage the concerns of US nationals because their day to make changes to this deal are gone.

  2. Eli Lewine (History)

    Aside from the obvious and extremely important nonproliferation concerns, what really gets me about this deal is that no one from the Administration can really answer the question of what the United States is getting for doing all of the heavy lifting on this deal. We use our sway to get the IAEA to make “India-Specific” safeguards and we submit a completely different set of rules for India to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and we get what? Improved relations with a country that is already moving closer to us due to economic ties and possibly some arms and jet sales?
    Any nuclear trade that will occur as a result of this will be going to Russia and France, who have already had preliminary talks and are just waiting for the ink to dry at the NSG.
    Seems that the Indian negotiators did a lot better job than our guys.

  3. Henry Sokolski

    Technically, the deal can still be changed just as the PRC deal was. RT may be right that Congress may not chose to do so but that is its choice. As for the answers to the questions, you would think that not only Congress, but the Indian public would want to know what the US negotiators believe the deal will require of India regarding nuclear testing and other matters that have been hotly debated.

  4. Daryl Kimball (History)

    Once again, the goon squad at State just doesn’t want the facts to get in the way of their retrograde policy agenda. What explains this? With the Indian leftists still holding back their support for moving the IAEA-Indian safeguards text to the IAEA BoG, U.S. officials are hiding their responses to questions from Congress and their modified proposal for exempting India from NSG rules as long as they can in order to obscure the inherent contradictions between the U.S. implementing legislation, the 123 agreement, the safeguards agreement and the NSG proposal. More on all of this at <;

  5. Asokan

    It is because they are going to lie.

  6. Lao Tao Ren (History)

    Nice to see how things are the same in different countries.

    Maybe you can get yourself an accent, dress different, and go in saying you are French.

  7. spacemanafrica

    Things like this tell me non-proliferation is dead and we’ve entered an unannounced age of pseudo-non-proliferation.

    To answer Eli I think what the US is getting from this is India, so to speak. I think it’s that simple.

  8. hass
  9. anon (History)

    This is so obvious that I’m sure someone has tried, but, has anyone called staff on the committee to see if they can send them out?

  10. James


    You know I’m against the India deal as much as the next sane person in the nonpro field, but my guess is that the info in question is classified “Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU)” under State Department parlance. This is the equivalent of DoD’s “For Official Use Only (FOUO)” and can’t be released to the general public.

  11. Daniel

    As much as I’m not a fan of Mike Gravel, seems like this is something that could be solved by getting a Representative with some balls to read the thing into the record.

    Also, do we know if they’re strictly unclassified, or if they’re FOUO?

  12. Mike H

    It seems like this could be a case of weighing non-proliferation costs versus other benefits, as “spacemanafrica” noted. Now that is not a defense of the administration, but it is important, when evaluating the costs and benefits of this deal, to evaluate NOT ONLY the non-proliferation costs/benefits but both the short and longer term benefits of improved relations with India. Now one issue is that those benefits might be intangible while the costs seem more short-term and tangible. However, any true cost-benefit analysis should try to take both the non-proliferation concerns and other possible benefits/costs into account. Focusing solely on the non-proliferation aspect is myopic if you want to understand why the deal happened, etc. Now will the deal work out, i.e. will the US get the “benefits” from India it seeks? I am not an expert on US-India relations. But it seems foolish to discount the possibility out of hand.


  13. Bruce Roth (History)

    Americans will benefit from the opening of U.S. markets to Indian mangoes, which have been closed for 17 years because of pests and diseases. However, before the food can enter the U.S., it will have to be irradiated, which won’t be hard for India to do anymore. U.S. citizens and the rest of the world should rightly feel “sold out”—and not just because the U.S. subsidized India’s mango crop in 2004 to the tune of $900,000!

  14. RG (History)

    The secrecy of US Dept. of State, or hush-hush attitude, is similar to the behavior of prime minister Singh’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government regarding this deal. It is being done so the Indian parliament and public don’t erupt in an uproar and throw out the govt.

    As usual, When it comes to India, the Non-Proliferation Ayatollahs (NPAs) have a double standard. They should fear not because this deal will be killed in the Indian parliament.

    This is what was recently said by the Indian foreign minister during a parliamentary discussion on 3/19:
    External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday kept everyone guessing on the future of India-US nuclear deal despite clear warnings of support withdrawal from the Left.

    “What can I say at this stage? We are still far from its operationalisation,” Mukherjee said in the Rajya Sabha (upper house) during his reply on short duration discussion on India’s foreign policy.

    “We are in a stage where we can neither mend it nor end it. We are in the dialogue stage,” he added after the members inquired about the status of the deal.

    Initiating the debate, the BJP leader and former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh alleged that the country was under immense confusion on the issue and the Government should come out with its stand on the controversial agreement with the US.

    “Please make up your mind, you want to go this way or that way,” Singh had asked.

    Informing the members that there was some progress in talks regarding India-specific safeguards agreement at the IAEA, Mukherjee said that the negotiations had not been inked.

    “When the entire process is over, we will come and seek Parliament’s opinion. Let that stage come,” he said rejecting the BJP demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the deal.

    During the debate, members from the Left and BJP attacked the Government for going ahead with the negotiations on the deal despite Opposition in Parliament.

    Rejecting the BJP charge that the main Opposition was kept in the dark and that the nuclear agreement was not the “private affair of the two parties”, Mukherjee said that Parliament had always been made aware of the developments at each stage.

    The reality is the US will lose NOTHING in this deal and it essentially binds India to the terms of the NPT, CTBT and FMCT. It is the Indian public that is getting shafted and this govt. will go out in a no confidence vote if they go through with the deal.

    As far as the mangoes are concerned, this is nonsense. Indian mangoes are some of the best in the world like Washington apples, and there is no reason people in the US shouldn’t be able to buy them. If one tried find them, they are usually sold out.

  15. Daryl Kimball (History)

    In answer to “anon,” some of us have asked for the answers to the questions. It was the HCFA staff while under the leadership of the now deceased Tom Lantos that agreed the State Dept’s restrictive “gag order” terms of distribution. The new HCFA chair Howard Berman has, so far, decided respect those terms.

  16. Shree Sangwan (History)

    Americans are not aware nor do they really care about what is happening in the rest of the world except, perhaps Europe. US is a declining power and in its waning years it is looking for allies, who will be strong and more relavant in the years to follow – hence the India connection. The US lawmakers are smart, they can forge an alliance by giving something now that india would eventually achieve on its own. It needs somebody, who will be able to stand up to communist China. Democratic China – whenever that happens will alter world politics beyond recognition.

  17. Stephen Young (History)

    Some setting the record straight to be done.

    UCS and PSR proposed an NGO briefing on GNEP (not the India deal) for the EU counselors to be hosted at the Slovenian embassy. The meeting was intended for UCS and PSR to present our opposition to GNEP to the EU, as they certainly wouldn’t be hearing anything negative from any officials.

    However, they preferred an administration representative as well, and we were amenable. The proposed format was a panel with PSR moderating, a DOE representative and Ed Lyman, UCS staff scientist. We helped identify possible DOE speakers, including Ed McGinnis.

    After the session was arranged, our host asked if we could also briefly discuss the India deal, which Ed agreed to even though UCS doesn’t actively work on the issue. Adding the officials from State was not a part of our plan or something we sought, but again we were amenable.

    An initial invitation with one large panel went out, but at some point in emerged that Stratford wanted a separate session. So the meeting was split into two: an India discussion that was closed to NGOs, and the GNEP panel that allowed a few outside folks were allowed to attend.

    So, in fact, we were not trying to arrange a briefing on India. It is unfortunate that the State Dept was unwilling to have a public briefing, but we were never involved with the discussions with those folks about the entire India aspect of the event.

    And we would like to thank our hosts at the Slovenian Embassy for arranging the session, and to Ed McGinnis for being willing to have an open discussion – we were very happy w/ the outcome of the GNEP session.

  18. Bruce Roth (History)

    Please take no umbrage, it was not my intent to sully the reputation of Indian mangoes; I’m sure they are quite delicious. I was merely pointing out for Mike H and Eli Lewine, that the US will benefit from the deal, and the benefits are indeed tangible. Importing Indian mangoes may just be the zenith of an administration with otherwise failed policies.

  19. Bruce Roth (History)

    WOW! That’s some good writing. I’m glad you discovered this Op-Ed extolling the miracles of the mangoe tree and its fruit. I must admit that until I read the Jaffrey piece, I thought that trading nuclear technology for mangoes was not very clever. But now I see that it will be a real coup for Bush & Co—perhaps this administration’s greatest legacy. In any event, I prefer papayas.

  20. peter Zimmerman (History)

    Just wondering about something… Since when did Mike Gravel get re-elected to Congress, or did the writer mean Ron Paul?