[Intelforum] Secrecy News -- 04/12/11
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from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2011, Issue No. 35
April 12, 2011
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
** OBAMA CLASSIFICATION REFORM EFFORT FAILS TO TAKE HOLD
** THE DEBT LIMIT: HISTORY AND RECENT INCREASES
OBAMA CLASSIFICATION REFORM EFFORT FAILS TO TAKE HOLD
An Obama Administration initiative to curb overclassification of national
security information that was announced in December 2009 has produced no
known results to date.
The Fundamental Classification Guidance Review, which was mandated by
President Obama's executive order 13526 (section 1.9), requires each
classifying agency to review all of its existing classification
instructions prior to June 2012 and "to identify classified information
that no longer requires protection and can be declassified." While more
than a year remains to complete the process, it is already behind schedule.
The Department of Defense, the most prolific classifying agency, failed to
produce implementing regulations for the executive order in advance of the
December 31, 2010 deadline for doing so set by the President. As a result,
most DoD components have not even started to review their classification
guides, of which there are thousands.
Most recently, U.S. Central Command said that it had no records concerning
the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review. "We conducted a thorough
and good faith search for responsive information," CENTCOM told us in a
March 28 letter. "Despite our extensive and careful search for documents
pertaining to your request, we were unable to locate responsive
U.S. European Command, on the other hand, said that it had already
completed its Fundamental Review. But it concluded that its existing
classification practices were already optimal, so no reductions in
classification were required!
"The EUCOM Intelligence Office conducted a review as directed by E.O.
13526 for a Fundamental Classification Guidance Review," EUCOM said on
January 18. "No inefficiencies were found during the EUCOM review. No
documents were produced during the review therefore, EUCOM reports a no
records found in response to your FOIA request."
Other agencies, including the Department of Energy, the Department of
Homeland Security, and the Department of State seem to be taking a more
diligent approach to the Fundamental Review, though even in those cases no
specific elimination of any current classification instruction is known to
have occurred thus far.
Some significant reductions in Obama Administration classification policy
have occurred, including dramatic changes in intelligence budget secrecy
and nuclear stockpile secrecy. But these important developments emerged
from issue-specific circumstances, and not from systematic classification
Last January, the director of the Information Security Oversight Office
wrote to senior agency officials to emphasize the importance of the
Fundamental Review and the need for rigorous implementation.
"The scope of this review needs to be systematic, comprehensive, and
conducted with thoughtful scrutiny involving detailed data analysis," wrote
ISOO director William J. Bosanko. But Mr. Bosanko has recently moved on
from ISOO, which awaits appointment of a new director. Meanwhile the
Fundamental Review appears stalled and unproductive in much of the
THE DEBT LIMIT: HISTORY AND RECENT INCREASES
A statutory limit on total federal debt has been in place since 1917. In
the past decade, Congress has voted to raise the debt limit ten times and
it will now have to do so once again.
The history of the debt limit and its current implications were discussed
in a recently updated report from the Congressional Research Service. See
"The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases," March 7, 2011:
And see, relatedly, "Reaching the Debt Limit: Background and Potential
Effects on Government Operations," February 11, 2011:
Reports from the Congressional Research Service have become such an
integral part of the national policymaking process that two CRS reports
were cited this month in an opinion issued by the Justice Department Office
of Legal Counsel concerning the President's constitutional authority to use
military force in Libya.
One of the reports addressed "Instances of Use of United States Armed
Forces Abroad, 1798-2010" and the other was on "Haiti: Developments and
U.S. Policy Since 1991 and Current Congressional Concerns."
Remarkably, however, neither of the CRS reports that was cited in the OLC
opinion is available on any congressional website, since Congress
stubbornly opposes direct public access to CRS products. To find them
online, one must turn to non-congressional websites.
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the
Federation of American Scientists.
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