This FRINFORMSUM starts off with a flurry of secrecy-related news that only leaves us with a mixed message from the government.
First, today the Obama administration is expected to release an executive order meant to prevent future leaks of classified information. This order comes in response to PFC Bradley Manning leaking classified Department of State cables to Wikileaks. While some patchwork efforts from agencies have been made in the intervening months, this executive order comes from a high-level task force that was formed shortly after the Wikileaks disclosures. The order will create a committee that will shape and create information sharing policies across the government as well as a mechanism to evaluate internal auditing procedures. Intelligence agencies are concerned that new restrictions on information sharing may prevent analysts from seeking out classified information for fear of sparking an investigation.
In 2009, the Central Intelligence Agency established the Center on Climate Change and National Security. On top of exploring the effect of climate change on national security issues amid political hostility from climate change deniers, the CIA has adopted an unfortunately non-transparent stance. In response to a FOIA request from Jeffrey Richelson of the National Security Archive, the CIA denied all documents requested from the Center on Climate Change and National Security. According to the CIA, not one document –or even one line of one document– could be disclosed without damaging national security. As the linked article says, this response is an old, tiresome one that brings into question the integrity of the Center and CIA.
In a positive development, the Department of Defense scrapped 82 classification guides as part of an effort to combat over-classification of national security information. The ongoing Fundamental Classification Guidance Review brought about the cancellation of these guides, which can no longer be used to authorize the classification of DoD information. Even though these guides only comprise 4% of the 1,878 existing guides, this development is solid evidence that tangible, positive changes are underway for DoD classification policy.
In FOIA news, a reporter for the Federal Times revealed a story about the Department of Homeland Security. Andrew Medici of the Federal Times had been trying to get in contact with the DHS Public Affairs office, but was consistently given an anonymous email address. In an effort to get in direct contact with a DHS public relations officer, Mr. Medici submitted a FOIA request asking for the contact information for their Public Affairs officials. DHS released the following:
As the image shows, the phone numbers and email address are all redacted under exemption 6: preventing an “invasion” of personal privacy.