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Declassify? -- NEVER! -- Presidential Daily Briefings

 
falldown
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User ID: 520470
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07/01/2009 04:13 PM
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Declassify? -- NEVER! -- Presidential Daily Briefings
[link to www.secgov.info]

The White House blog is accepting comments and recommendations with respect to the Executive branch’s declassification policy through July 1st. One thing the Obama administration can fix is the worst abuse of the declassification prerogative to date – specifically the Director of National Intelligence’s (DNI) and the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) position that per se, the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) is classified in perpetuity.

The PDB, according to the CIA, “is a unique intelligence document prepared specifically for the President of the United States and his most senior advisors to provide them with the most important current intelligence on critical issues relating to national defense and foreign policy.” PDBs have significant historical value in that they provide insight into our national leaders’ understanding of world situations and thus are critical to understanding and assessing our country’s actions during a given historical period. They also have significant policy implications in that PDBs provide additional insight into the quality and effectiveness of intelligence support provided to the President and his most senior advisors. That the DNI, the official most directly responsible for the quality of that support, can also assert that PDBs should never be released constitutes a clear conflict of interest with respect to the ability of the American people to hold their Government leaders accountable, even if that accountability must be through history. Moreover, as evidenced by the infamous PDB from August 6, 2001, entitled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US, (the release of which was strongly resisted by the Bush White House) PDBs are a prime source for answering the proverbial question, “what did the President know and when did he know it?”

In 2003, the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) voted 5-1 that a portion of a now 40-year-old PDB be declassified. Voting in favor were representatives of the Departments of Defense, State and Justice, the National Security Council staff, and the National Archives and Records Administration. Voting against was the representative of the Central Intelligence Agency. Previously, such action by the ISCAP would have resulted in the declassification of the information unless one of the Panel members appealed to the President and the President personally overruled the Panel. However, with the amendment of the governing Executive Order several months earlier, the then Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) was authorized to block the declassification by the ISCAP of certain information owned or controlled by the DCI. In this instance, the DCI blocked the declassification of the portion of the PDB that the ISCAP voted to declassify, necessitating another member of the ISCAP to appeal to the President, through his National Security Advisor, the DCI’s “veto.” According to the Information Security Oversight Office’s most recent Report to the President, the appeal to the President remained “pending” for the final five years of the Bush administration and is apparently still pending in the Obama administration.

Of particular note, the portion of the PDB to be declassified was a single paragraph in length (70 words), included no information relating to intelligence sources or methods, and solely contained information that every Third-grader knows today. Nonetheless, the then DCI and now DNI considers this information to still be classified at the TOP SECRET level simply because it appeared in a PDB 40 years ago.

The above is a prime example of declassification not working. The DCI’s and DNI’s argument is literally “form over substance.” Admittedly, sensitive intelligence information, such as that which could be used to identify a human source, remains highly damaging even many years later and should continue to be afforded the protection of the classification system. However, to endorse the use of the classification system to continue to protect these 70 words, or any other portion of any PDB (or any other official document) that clearly can no longer cause damage to national security, undermines the very integrity of the classification system and thus places all properly classified information at needless increased risk.

Clearly, one of the “fixes” the Obama administration should make to the declassification system is to prohibit the application of any “per se” rule to the classification or the continued classification of any collection or series of records (to include agency or intelligence community budgetary records). Instead, any new classification framework should instead insist that decisions to continue the classification of any information, especially information many decades old, be made on the substance of the information to be released and the real damage to national security that could occur should the information be disclosed.

Equally important, if he has not already done so, President Obama should immediately override the DNI’s continued blocking of the ISCAP action in this case and insist that the PDB portion in question be immediately declassified, making it clear that decisions to withhold this or any other PDB will be made on substantive grounds only and that all PDBs are subject to eventual declassification.

Forever is a long time, even for the classification of information. Either that or we may have to start classifying Third-grade textbooks.
~
~
"He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words." ~Elbert Hubbard
Angel Girl on Cloud 9™

User ID: 715510
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07/01/2009 05:11 PM
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Re: Declassify? -- NEVER! -- Presidential Daily Briefings
[link to www.secgov.info]


Of particular note, the portion of the PDB to be declassified was a single paragraph in length (70 words), included no information relating to intelligence sources or methods, and solely contained information that every Third-grader knows today. Nonetheless, the then DCI and now DNI considers this information to still be classified at the TOP SECRET level simply because it appeared in a PDB 40 years ago.



Clearly, one of the “fixes” the Obama administration should make to the declassification system is to prohibit the application of any “per se” rule to the classification or the continued classification of any collection or series of records (to include agency or intelligence community budgetary records). Instead, any new classification framework should instead insist that decisions to continue the classification of any information, especially information many decades old, be made on the substance of the information to be released and the real damage to national security that could occur should the information be disclosed.

Equally important, if he has not already done so, President Obama should immediately override the DNI’s continued blocking of the ISCAP action in this case and insist that the PDB portion in question be immediately declassified, making it clear that decisions to withhold this or any other PDB will be made on substantive grounds only and that all PDBs are subject to eventual declassification.

Forever is a long time, even for the classification of information. Either that or we may have to start classifying Third-grade textbooks.
 Quoting: falldown


Great article especially in these times. Thanks


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Angel
falldown  (OP)

User ID: 520470
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07/01/2009 05:15 PM
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Re: Declassify? -- NEVER! -- Presidential Daily Briefings
Great article especially in these times. Thanks


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 Quoting: Angel Girl on Cloud 9™

Thanks Angel! hf
~
~
"He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words." ~Elbert Hubbard
CHRISTINEAVERY27
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09/10/2011 05:41 PM
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Re: Declassify? -- NEVER! -- Presidential Daily Briefings
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