Inspectors General to Help Oversee Classification

The House and Senate this week approved legislation that will require the Inspector General of each executive branch agency that classifies information to evaluate the agency’s classification program and to assess its implementation of classification policies and procedures. The new measure should help to bolster the oversight of the national security classification system, which is currently the sole responsibility of the Information Security Oversight Office.

The provision was included in the “Reducing Over-classification Act” (HR 553), which was originally introduced by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) and amended by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and which generally seeks to promote improved information sharing.

Despite its bold title, the legislation does not establish any new criteria for assuring appropriate classification nor does it even define the term overclassification. Yet by enlisting the Inspectors General to oversee agency compliance with current classification policies, the bill could make a significant contribution to addressing the problem of wrongful or unnecessary secrecy.

In particular, the IGs may be expected to monitor agency implementation of the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review, the Obama Administration initiative that is supposed to eliminate obsolete classification requirements in each agency (as required by executive order 13526, section 1.9). To date, there is no available evidence that agencies have made any progress in performing the Reviews, which must be completed by June 2012.

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  1. [...] the Federation of American Scientists writes: “by enlisting the Inspectors General to oversee agency compliance with current classification policies, the bill could make a significant contribution [...]

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