CIA analyst Charles A. Duelfer's report on Iraq's weapons programs included lists of governments, political parties, companies and individuals from at least 44 nations who received vouchers to buy oil -- both legally and otherwise -- from the Iraqi government during Saddam Hussein's reign.
The names on the politically explosive list are French, Russian, Chinese, Canadian and Japanese; if Duelfer had had his way, U.S. companies and individuals would have been included, too.
But he was overruled by CIA lawyers. The report instead lists some voucher recipients only as "U.S. person" and "U.S. company," explaining in a footnote that disclosure was barred by the 1974 Privacy Act and "other applicable law."
The Privacy Act would indeed prohibit the unconsented disclosure of intelligence on "persons" who are either U.S. citizens or permanent residents, according to lawyers knowledgeable about the law and a detailed explanation of the statute on the Justice Department's Web site. But the Web site adds that "[c]orporations and organizations . . . do not have any Privacy Act rights."
So company names may have been ruled out by "other applicable law." An intelligence official said Duelfer's legal advisers relied on a 1981 Executive Order, signed by President Ronald Reagan, that sets out rules for intelligence-gathering in the United States and abroad.
That order, a public document, limits the circumstances under which intelligence agencies may "collect, retain or disseminate" information concerning "United States persons" -- which the order, unlike the Privacy Act, defines to include corporations.