Amid threats by Maine’s senators of legislation and subpoenas, the Pentagon has agreed to share more details about how it chose which bases to close. It may be no help, though.

The info is still a secret.

If the data discredits the closure list, as Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins hope, it couldn’t even be shared with the independent closure commission.

The problem is the logistics of government secrecy.

Defense Department officials told Snowe and Collins late Tuesday that a secure room was being prepared not far from the Pentagon in Arlington. The senators and staffers with the necessary clearances could use the room to gain access to the data, used to separate which bases should be closed and which should remain open.

However, they can’t take notes nor tell anyone what they found. The info would be banned from any public hearing or forum.

“It also means that the documents would not be available for individual bases to use to make their cases in defense of keeping their facilities open,” Collins said Wednesday in a prepared statement.

The Pentagon move is the latest in a series of struggles with the senators, who have argued for two weeks that the information needed to be released.

By law, that information was due to be given to the public by May 20, one week after the closure list was released.

However, Pentagon leaders now say the information needs to be declassified first, vetted by experts to make sure secrets are not released to the public.

That vetting should have been done long ago, say Snowe and Collins. The deadlines were set last year. It was no surprise.

Last week, Snowe and South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune introduced legislation to shut down the closure round if the data is not forthcoming. Collins, who chairs the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, has threatened to subpoena the information.

The documents are under review, Collins spokeswoman Jen Burita said Wednesday. When the review is done, Collins will then decide if the subpoena is needed.

Each move takes time, though.

The Pentagon proposal calls for closing the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery and slashing Brunswick Naval Air Station, sending away all its planes and most of its active-duty personnel.

Richard Tetrev, who is leading the community fight to preserve the Brunswick base, worries that the information will be made public too late to do any good.

He and other local leaders are due to meet today with four members of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, who will also be touring the base.

They will be given just 15 minutes. Another more formal hearing is scheduled for July 6 in Boston. Tetrev and others hope to use the Pentagon info to mount a case against the base’s realignment.

They only hope to get the data in time, Tetrev said.


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