The Director of National Intelligence last week named Roslyn A. Mazer of the Department of Justice to be the next Inspector General of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
What makes this an intriguing appointment is that from 1996 to 2000 Ms. Mazer was the first chair of the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), which is among the most successful classification reform initiatives of the last half century. At a time when agency Inspectors General may be asked to assume greater oversight over classification policy, she brings an exceptional depth of knowledge and experience to the subject.
One of the ISCAP’s functions is to consider appeals from public requesters for release of information that executive agencies have withheld as classified. Under Ms. Mazer’s leadership from 1996 to 2000, the ISCAP declassified information in an astounding 80% of the documents that were presented for its review.
In fact, Ms. Mazer’s ISCAP was so successful in overturning spurious classification claims that the Central Intelligence Agency begged for relief from ISCAP jurisdiction. The CIA plea was rejected in a 1999 Office of Legal Counsel decision. But in his 2003 executive order on classification (sect. 5.3f), President Bush granted the CIA a veto over ISCAP declassification rulings.
In a 1998 speech to a conference of intelligence agency classification officials, Ms. Mazer criticized what she termed “the Lewis Carroll element of classification policy” which leads to “keeping classified categories of information that everyone already knows.”
During the Cold War, “closed regimes found themselves hopelessly and fatally outpaced by open societies, and ultimately collapsed from exhaustion,” she reminded the assembled intelligence officials. “This is the reason why our democracy endures, why we live under the oldest living constitutional democracy, and why we cannot export democracy like bananas to formerly closed societies.”
“We prevailed over those societies because of our passion for openness, for trusting our citizens more than we empower our leaders. We celebrate our openness. In fact, it is unnecessary secrecy that is timid and cowardly. Openness is courageous. Be courageous. Be as open as you responsibly can,” Ms. Mazer urged.
Ms. Mazer will succeed Edward Maguire, the outgoing ODNI Inspector General who presented his own critique of the ODNI in testimony before a hearing (pdf) of Rep. Anna Eshoo’s House Intelligence subcommittee last week (“IG Report Blasts the Director of National Intelligence,” Secrecy News, April 2, 2009).