Few people know more about government secrets -- not the secrets themselves but how they are kept -- than Harold Relyea, a leading authority on government institutions for 37 years at the Congressional Research Service.
Relyea, who began retirement this month in northern Virginia, wrote countless reports and numerous books on national security classifications, emergency powers and government efforts to suppress information. He also specialized in freedom of information laws and counseled lawmakers on the structure and functions of government institutions.
"He showed how secrecy had deep roots in American history," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy, sponsored by the Federation of American Scientists. "In a profound sense, he was an educator to a generation of congressmen and scholars and the public at large."
Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said Relyea played a key advisory role when Congress was debating creation of the Homeland Security Department in 2002. "I remember being impressed by Dr. Relyea's depth of knowledge, and his timely and thorough responses to my requests for information," Byrd said.
A native of Oneida, N.Y., Relyea earned a doctorate in government at American University in 1971 and immediately joined the CRS, which had been chartered the year before. He soon became embroiled in government secrecy issues in 1975 as an adviser for the late Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, when he chaired the Select Committee To Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities.
Relyea said he plans to continue editing and writing, including a book on emergency powers. "I'm just not doing the daily grind," Relyea said.