In This Issue:
News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. ISOO Annual Report on Secrecy System: Volume of Classified Material Growing
II. House Oversight Committee Holds Hearing on E-Records Issue
III. PIDB Calls on Public for Fresh Ideas to Transform Classification
News from Coalition Partners & Others
Happy birthday and best wishes to the Project On Government Oversight – POGO and the Sunlight Foundation! Sunlight celebrated the 5th anniversary of their founding last week; see a message from Co-founder Ellen Miller and video here. POGO’s 30th Anniversary Celebration will be next week at Sweden House; the event will feature a panel discussion on whistleblowers and government oversight moderated by Dan Froomkin and including Representative Donna Edwards, David Einhorn, The Honorable Christopher Shays, and Matt Taibbi. Tickets are on sale now.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, Scientific Integrity Program organized community support for HR 1144, the Transparency and Openness in Government Act. The bill, sponsored by the Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), combines several bipartisan, noncontroversial reforms passed by the House during the last session of Congress that would make the government more open and accountable. The sign-on letter was joined by OpenTheGovernment.org and several of our coalition partners.
On April 20, Project On Government Oversight – POGO posted an Open Letter to the Senate from a group of public interest organizations – including OpenTheGovernment.org and many partners – asking the body to oppose a provision in the Intelligence authorization bill that unduly threatens the free speech rights of current and former federal employees in the intelligence community. Section 403 of the bill contains language that takes away the due process of employees by authorizing the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and intelligence agency heads extraordinary authority to penalize federal employees in the intelligence community who are accused of knowingly disclosing classified information, including depriving them their pensions. Under current law, such actions can be taken against an employee or former employee that is convicted of illegally disclosing classified information.
Last week the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) issued the Fiscal Year 2010 Report to the President. As Secrecy News has highlighted, the report expresses particular concern about the failure of agencies to issue implementing regulations for President Obama’s December 2009 executive order on national security classification policy. The report also notes a troubling increase in the size of classified material, even as the number of people creating new classified information shrinks to new lows. In 2010, there was a 22.6% increase in the number of original classification decisions — dramatically reversing a trend that had shown fairly steady decrease since hitting a spike in 2004. The report also shows a dramatic increase in the number of derivative classifications, which occur when classified information is used in a new form. The increase was expected given 2009 guidance from ISOO that clarified agencies should include electronic derivative classifications; ISOO does not expect the number to stabilize until 2011, at the earliest.The increasing number of reported derivative classifications is troubling because, even if it only represents an increase in our understanding of the size of the classified universe, much of the material will likely have to be reviewed before it can be declassified. Look for a discussion of the implications of these trends, and other statistics from ISOO, in our 2011 Secrecy Report Card later this year.
This morning the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on" Presidential Records in the New Millenium: Updating the Presidential Records Act and Other Federal Recordkeeping Statutes to Improve Electronic Records Preservation." According to early press accounts, the hearing will focus on whether the law accounts for new technologies, such as Facebook and Twitter. During the hearing, the Committee will hear testimony from Brook Colangelo, Chief Information Officer of the White House Office of Administration and David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States.
The current state of electronic record keeping in the government should shock and concern anyone who cares about open and accountable government. Reports by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and others show that while an ever-increasing amount of the work of the federal government is completely digital, we do not know with any certainty that the records are not being destroyed, much less stored in a way that makes them easily findable and usable. (See the Archivist talk about the problems with federal record keeping during a panel at our Sunshine Week Webcast here.) Agencies must be able to find these records to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, discovery in litigation and Congressional requests for information. We applaud the House for taking an interest in this issue and urge the Committee to look at the problem more holistically.
The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) is welcoming specific, actionable, ideas for addressing the shortcomings of the current classification system. Members of the public are invited to submit short white papers (between 800 and 1200 words) for posting on the Transforming Classification blog. For a little over a month now, the PIDB has solicited public feedback on a number of proposals developed by the Board. The Board will review all papers emailed to email@example.com by May 13, 2011, group them by topic, and post all on-topic submissions for public comment on May 18. Proposals from the public and the Board will be discussed in a public forum on May 26, 2011 at the National Archives Building.