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NEW ANNOUNCEMENT: The Public Interest Declassification Board Publicly Releases its Report to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System

by on December 6, 2012


 

 

Photo courtesy of the National Archives

 

Today, the Public Interest Declassification Board released online its recommendations to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System.  It recommends fundamental changes that ensure the classification system will function fully to protect our nation’s security and to allow for democratic discourse in the 21st century.  The full report can be found at http://www.archives.gov/declassification/pidb/recommendations/transforming-classification.html.

We concluded that new policies for classifying and declassifying information are required.  The classification system has not kept pace with our information age and no longer supports users as it should.  The secrecy system should be streamlined and better aligned with safeguarding practices and less information should be classified overall.  Overall, there needs to be a better balance between what is classified and what is available to the American public.

Technology is at the core of our recommendations for a needed transformation of the declassification system.  Current page-by-page review processes are unsustainable in an era of gigabytes and yottabytes.  New and existing technologies must be integrated into new processes that allow greater information storage, retrieval, and sharing.  We must incorporate technology into an automated declassification process.

Our study involved the participation of stakeholders across Government, the private sector and civil society groups – thank you all for your comments and ideas.  Please continue to follow the Board’s activities as we share our recommendations with our stakeholders and support this most important transformation area fundamental to transparency and open government initiatives.


Comments

Jim Scott January 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I can attest to the PIDB report’s conclusion that America’s classification system maintains too many secrets and keeps them too long. Since 2008, I have tried to get the CIA to release 50-year old secrets about my father, Paul Scott, who was a nationally syndicated columnist. He was “illegally” wiretapped by the CIA in 1963 and only heavily redacted memos were released in 2007 in the CIA’s Family Jewels document. This illustrates a case where the government has not only failed to account for its illegal activities but also rebuffs attempts to uncover long held secrets. In my efforts to gain access to my father’s files, I have worked diligently within the FOIA / MDR system but to no avail. To date, this case awaits review by the ISCAP.
Regarding the “referral” process I can also confirm how burdensome and “dead-ended” it has become. In brief, a FOIA request re my father to the FBI resulted in the release of 70+ pages to me. However, approximately 50 other pages were sent to the CIA for a “referral / consult”. Nearly two years later the CIA has failed to respond to that FBI request.
In my view, agencies like the CIA need to change their entrenched declassification practices. But it seems the agency would rather drag its feet than comply, especially knowing that it presently faces no consequences for its inaction. I hope and trust that the PIDB recommendations become solutions to the serious declassification challenges that I and others have encountered.

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