[Intelforum] Secrecy News -- 02/08/12
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from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 11
February 8, 2012
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
** DOD INSPECTOR GENERAL TAKES ON CLASSIFICATION OVERSIGHT
** LEAKS, NATIONAL SECURITY AND FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
** CHINA'S VICE PRESIDENT VISITS THE US, AND MORE FROM CRS
DOD INSPECTOR GENERAL TAKES ON CLASSIFICATION OVERSIGHT
In a move that can only strengthen and improve oversight of the national
security classification system, the Department of Defense Inspector General
has begun a far-reaching review of Pentagon classification policy.
Among other things, the Inspector General review will focus on "efforts by
the Department to decrease over-classification."
In response to the "Reducing Over-classification Act" enacted by Congress
in 2010, the IG will "evaluate the policies, procedures, rules,
regulations, or management practices that may be contributing to persistent
misclassification of material." The Act was originally sponsored by Rep.
Jane Harman and Sen. Joe Lieberman.
The IG notified the military service secretaries and DoD agency heads of
its new classification oversight project in an October 26, 2011 memorandum
obtained by Secrecy News.
For years, critics of secrecy policy including the Federation of American
Scientists have called for a greater role for inspectors general in
classification oversight, to augment the work of the Information Security
Oversight Office. IGs typically offer several advantages: Since they are
part of the executive branch, their involvement in classification policy
does not raise thorny separation of powers issues. Moreover, as resident
agency employees, IG investigators are already in place, they already hold
all needed security clearances, and they should already be familiar with
their agencies' programs and policies.
Best of all, they are poised to identify defective practices when they
The FAS Project on Government Secrecy commenced two decades ago with a
complaint we submitted to the DoD Inspector General regarding the
classification of the Timber Wind nuclear rocket program as an
"unacknowledged special access program." In its December 16, 1992
response, the IG determined that "the decision to protect the program using
special program measures was not adequately justified." The IG further
found that certain program information was safeguarded "for reasons that
were not related to national security." The Timber Wind program did not
LEAKS, NATIONAL SECURITY AND FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
A new book-length study of leaks of classified information published by
the Defense Intelligence Agency's National Intelligence University contends
that "the tension between maintaining national security secrets and the
public's right to know cannot be 'solved', but can be better understood and
more intelligently managed."
"Who Watches the Watchmen?" by Gary Ross explores the phenomenon of leaks
from multiple angles, including their history, their prevalence and their
consequences. Most interestingly, he considers the diverse motivations of
leakers and of the reporters who solicit, receive and publish their
disclosures. Some of these he finds defensible, and others not.
In the end, he advises that government officials should engage members of
the media in a constructive dialog in order to avert the worst consequences
"Proactively engaging with the media to examine the costs and benefits
associated with unauthorized disclosures represents the greatest potential
for reducing the perceived harm to national security," Mr. Ross writes.
By contrast, "Maintaining the status quo or attempting to legislate a
solution both have proven to be ineffective methods for resolving the
dilemma. True change can only occur if the Executive Branch is willing to
invest the time and resources necessary to implement an approach focused on
engagement with the media."
This is a congenial conclusion, which implies that punitive new
legislation can be avoided and that remaining differences between reporters
and government officials can be fruitfully discussed.
But it arguably misapprehends the harsh new policy landscape in the wake
of the WikiLeaks episode (which is also discussed in the book). The status
quo has been transformed in response to WikiLeaks in two ways that are
unfavorable to leakers, justified or unjustified.
First, the threat of unauthorized disclosures has been elevated in the
view of government officials to one of "the most menacing foreign
intelligence threats in the next two to three years." In January 31
testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, DNI James R. Clapper said
that unauthorized disclosures of classified information had "caused
significant damage to US interests." Further, he said, "We assess that
trusted insiders using their access for malicious intent represent one of
today's primary threats to US classified networks." "Engagement with the
media" will not be the main response to such threats.
And second, WikiLeaks, which targeted legitimate and illegitimate secrets
with equal vigor, has inspired and accelerated the development of new
forensic tools and methods to identify the sources of unauthorized
disclosures. Internal surveillance of classified networks is set to grow,
with new mechanisms for tracking and auditing online activity by government
employees. Whatever else might be true, the status quo of a few years ago
has been left behind.
CHINA'S VICE PRESIDENT VISITS THE US, AND MORE FROM CRS
New reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been
made readily available to the public include the following.
China's Vice President Xi Jinping Visits the United States: What Is at
Stake?, February 6, 2012:
Lebanon and the Uprising in Syria: Issue for Congress, February 2, 2012:
Iran's Threat to the Strait of Hormuz, January 23, 2012:
Sourcing Policy: Selected Developments and Issues, February 7, 2012:
Smart Meter Data: Privacy and Cybersecurity, February 3, 2012:
Suicide Prevention Efforts of the Veterans Health Administration, February
Constitutional Analysis of Suspicionless Drug Testing Requirements for the
Receipt of Governmental Benefits, January 19, 2012:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the
Federation of American Scientists.
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