Twists and Turns in Pentagon Information Policy

Some of the most important news in Department of Defense information policy has to do with what did not happen.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon asked Congress to enact two new provisions that would have restricted public access to broad swaths of unclassified information. But Congress declined to approve either one.

One provision would have created a new exemption for unclassified information regarding weapons of mass destruction. The other proposed provision would have established civil and criminal penalties for unauthorized publication or sale of “geodetic products” (i.e. maps and images) that the Secretary of Defense had designated for “limited distribution.”

Neither provision survived in either the House or Senate versions of the FY 2008 Defense Authorization Act and, barring extraordinary developments, will not be enacted into law.

Also this year, a Freedom of Information Act exemption for “operational files” of the Defense Intelligence Agency is set to expire. DIA did not request, and will not receive, an extension of the controversial exemption, which was adopted in the 2006 Defense Authorization Act with a “sunset” date of December 31, 2007.

Last week, the Department of Defense issued a final rule setting forth “the policies and procedures … that permit U.S. citizens to perform historical research in records created by or in the custody of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).”

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