ISOO Report Recommends Government-wide Technology Strategy to Address Inefficiencies in Information Security

Today, the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) released its 2017 Annual Report to the President on security classification and implementation of the Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) program.  ISOO’s report highlights the high cost and inefficiency of using outmoded systems to protect America’s classified information, and recommends that the President implement a Government-wide technology strategy for the management of classified information to combat inaccurate classification and promote more timely declassification.

Based on data collected from executive agencies, the call for a common technology solution and risk management strategy to coordinate necessary improvements in the classification system complements additional findings, recommendations and judgments in the ISOO report.

ISOO also prescribes that the Office of Management and Budget consider reforming the budget process to include security classification as a line-item, as well as to prioritize dedicated funds for research and development activities and to transform acquisition practices.

ISOO’s report notes that CUI program implementation remains challenging, with too many agencies providing only limited support.  ISOO believes that robust agency implementation of compliant CUI policies designed to better protect and facilitate the sharing of sensitive information would further advance the President’s management initiatives.  However, the sluggish rate of agency progress toward this goal requires immediate White House intervention.

See ISOO’s Annual Report to the President for FY 2017, for the complete set of findings, recommendations, and judgments, based on quantitative data gathered from executive branch agencies, as required under Executive Order 13526.

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The PIDB Welcomes New Member Alissa Starzak

The PIDB welcomes a new member, Alissa M. Starzak.  U. S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) has appointed Ms. Starzak to  a three-year term on the PIDB.  The PIDB looks forward to Ms. Starzak’s participation in continuing  work on transforming and modernizing the security classification system.  

Ms. Starzak joins PIDB from her current position at Cloudflare, a company providing web-security and optimization services.  In this position she is responsible for public policy.  Prior to joining Cloudflare, Ms. Starzak worked for the U.S government in a variety of national security positions.  Most recently, she served as the 21st General Counsel of the U.S. Department of the Army, after confirmation by the Senate. As General Counsel of the Army, she was the primary legal counsel to the Secretary of the Army and the Army’s chief legal officer.  Her appointment as Army General Counsel followed service as the Deputy General Counsel for Legislation at the U.S. Department of Defense.  As Deputy General Counsel she advised on legal issues with a legislative or congressional component, and managed an office of attorneys responsible for developing the Department of Defense legislative program.

Prior to moving to the Department of Defense, Ms. Starzak served as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, focusing on legal issues relating to intelligence collection and covert action, and as an Assistant General Counsel at the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of General Counsel. She also worked in private practice in Washington, D.C., and clerked for The Honorable E. Grady Jolly, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  She graduated from Amherst College and the University of Chicago Law School, where she served as an editor of the University of Chicago Law Review.  Ms. Starzak is serving her first term on the PIDB.

 

 

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Making Sunshine: The Work of the Public Interest Declassification Board

The PIDB continues its role advising the President, Executive Branch officials, and Congress on ways to bring sunshine to the security classification system in the interest of our national security.  During Sunshine Week, we want to share our plans for a new report and series of recommendations we believe will transform the security classification system from its antiquated, overburdened state to a modernized system capable of functioning in the digital age.

The PIDB, forming a Declassification Technology Working Group in 2015, began conversations with government technology and information officers and experts to hear of concerns and needs in the classification and declassification frontlines. Through these exchanges and findings, we reiterate our long-held recommendation that modernization of the classification system is a critical imperative.  Earnest and real attempts must be made to ensure a transparent and credible security classification system by reducing over-classification and improving declassification to sustain our democratic values and citizenry from an antiquated, overburdened system.

We know the new era must be met with a bold vision, a vision that clearly and systematically surveys the future of classification and declassification for the twenty-first century. In the next few weeks we will engage with our public and government stakeholders to share a draft report titled:  A Vision for the Digital Age: Modernization of the U.S. National Security Classification and Declassification System.  We will seek comments and feedback on the draft Report from our stakeholders before finalizing the recommendations and presenting to the President.

The vision we provide is for a uniform, integrated and modernized security classification system sustainable in the digital environment that appropriately protects national security interests and instills confidence in the American people. The declassification business model for the future centers on (1) organizing for success via a more unified and federated enterprise-level system-of-systems approach to records declassification and (2) the acquisition and adoption of technologies and processes that leverage information age IT and telecommunications innovation and systems development.

Our draft Report will be open to thoughtful appraisal from our stakeholders. Please remain engaged with the PIDB blog to hear more about the PIDB’s newest recommendations and to participate in the finalization of our next Report to the President.

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Completion of the JFK Records Rolling Release

Last Friday marked the completion of the rolling review and release of the final records still publicly withheld from the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection.  The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) acknowledges the importance of the completion of the rolling release of these records, but we must note with disappointment failure of the responsible agencies to meet the legal requirements set by the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. The PIDB recognizes and respects that it is likely some of the JFK records were properly subject to being withheld or redacted to protect legitimate national security information which should remain classified. However, with the 25 years of advance notice afforded by the 1992 Act, it is difficult now to understand why the October 26 deadline passed largely unmet. Certainly, there will be no excuse for a failure by any agency to meet the extended deadline of April 26, 2018, set by the President. The American public deserves no less.  We look forward to the completion of the re-review process that the President has directed and will continue monitoring the release of these records of high historical significance.

 

 

 

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NARA’s 2018-2022 Draft Strategic Plan

All Federal agencies are required to produce a strategic document every four years. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) invites public and government partners, stakeholders, and colleagues in the archival, historical, and records management communities to submit comments on NARA’s draft 2018-2022 Strategic Plan.

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) encourages its stakeholders to submit comments on NARA’s strategic plan by the September 1, 2017 deadline.

Instructions to provide feedback are available online or by email to strategy@nara.gov.  If you have any questions about the draft plan or the review process, please email strategy@nara.gov or the PIDB’s email pidb@nara.gov.

Highlights from NARA’s Draft Strategic Plan:

The draft strategic plan establishes NARA’s mission, strategic goals, and objectives.  The plan describes how NARA will meet a vision of the agency’s future where it will be known for “cutting-edge access to extraordinary volumes of government information and unprecedented engagement to bring greater meaning to the American experience.”  Notably, the plan provides Federal agencies, already implementing electronic records management, with a deadline for the next step in the transition to fully-electronic recordkeeping:  By December 31, 2022, NARA will no longer accept transfers of permanent or temporary records in analog formats and will accept records only in electronic format and with appropriate metadata

Other select goals and objectives include:

  • By FY 2019: NARA will conduct inspections of records management practices at 10% of Federal agencies, to ensure that Federal email and other permanent electronic records are being managed in an electronic format.
  • By FY 2020: Digitize 500 million pages of records and make them available online to the public through the National Archives Catalog
  • By FY 2021: 82% of NARA holdings will be processed to enable discovery by the public
  • By FY 2025: Provide finding aids to 95 percent of the holdings described in the National Archives Catalog
  • By FY 2025: NARA’s data will be used as a primary data source by at least 15 external sources
  • By FY 2025: Will have 1 million records enhanced by citizen contributions to the National Archives Catalog

The PIDB will post its comments on NARA’s draft strategic plan in the coming weeks.

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Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi Announces Appointment of John F. Tierney to the PIDB

On July 11, 2017, the House of Representatives Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi announced the appointment of John F. Tierney to serve a three-year term as a member of the Public Interest Declassification Board.   The members of the PIDB look forward to working with Mr. Tierney as they continue their efforts to improve declassification and modernize the classification system. You may access a biography of Mr. Tierney here.

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State Department Releases Historically Significant Records on Human Rights Abuses in Argentina

Yesterday, President Trump presented Argentine President Mauricio Macri with a CD containing approximately 3,300 pages of records relating to human rights abuses committed in Argentina between 1975 and 1984.  The documents are part of a comprehensive interagency project by 14 Government departments and agencies to search their archives and identify and review for public access records documenting these abuses.  They have been long sought by the Government of Argentina and researchers.

The documents released today are grouped into two collections.  The first group contains newly available information from previously withheld documents.  They were originally reviewed by the State Department in 2002 but reviewers determined they could not be released to the public at that time.  They provide new details on U.S. policies, information on specific abuse cases, and U.S. efforts to end abuses.  These documents are integrated into a database titled, “Argentina Declassification Project” and can be viewed here.

The second group of documents consists of records identified by State Department historians as they compiled the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) South America, 1977-1980 volume.  They document high-level policy discussions and deliberations as the Carter administration sought to deal with the Argentine dictatorship.  These documents were identified for inclusion in the Argentina and Latin American Region chapters and can be viewed here.

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) has long recommended the importance of prioritizing records for declassification.  In 2012, we wrote our report to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System and focused on this recommendation in our 2014 report to the President titled Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification.  The recommendations in these reports advocated that the best use of department and agency resources should be spent on reviewing relevant topics of historical interest. The PIDB commends the cooperative effort by all departments and agencies undertaking exemplary projects like this one which are of great historical value and should become a prototype for the declassification of significant government information.

Other Links of Interest

The Department of State publicized these documents with a press release as well as through a DipNote blog post

IC on the Record has publicized the release on their official blog.

The release was publicized in Argentina, including in the Buenos Aires Herald, an English language newspaper.

In the U.S. the National Security Archive blogged about it and posted an Electronic Briefing Book here.

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The Importance of Sunshine Week

This week is Sunshine Week, an annual initiative that seeks to educate the public about the importance of openness in government.  Each year during mid-March, organizations dedicated to advocating for a more open government hold events around the nation to
discuss the various ways we can hold our government accountable to the people by limiting secrecy and advancing the free exchange of information.

The PIDB supports these Sunshine Week events, including one being held today at the National Archives and Records Administration.  The event features a variety of panelists, including the Archivist of the United States and the Librarian of Congress, as well professionals from the Office of Government Information Services and civil society groups, who will discuss the importance of increasing the public’s ability to access government information.

As a Presidential Advisory body, the PIDB will continue its role of advising the President, Executive Branch officials, and Congress on ways to bring sunshine to the security classification system in the interest of our national security.  We believe, and have reiterated in every report written, the need for limiting secrecy to the absolute minimum necessary to achieve our national security initiatives.
Indeed, sharing information as soon as is possible brings credibility and transparency to the security classification system, ideals we know are necessary for its successful functioning.  As current events have demonstrated, the credibility of our government is a major factor in its ability to do its job effectively.  Transforming and modernizing classification and declassification across government so they function more effectively in today’s digital information environment is critical to reducing over-classification and improving access to information that no longer requires protection.
Sunshine Week is also an opportunity to commemorate the tenure of one of our longest serving members, Sanford Ungar.  Sandy completed his third appointment as a member of the PIDB in early March.  Among his many accomplishments while on the PIDB, Sandy was instrumental in developing the recommendations for all three PIDB Reports to the President, including the latest Setting Priorities report, which focuses on the prioritization of historical records of interest in declassification review.  Sandy’s experience as a journalist and historian helped shaped many of his insights while a PIDB member.  His dedicated service to the nation will not be forgotten and we wish him all the best in the next chapter of his professional and personal life.  We are thankful the PIDB will have Sandy as an enduring resource to call upon as we continue our work in promoting a more open government.  On behalf of the members, past and present, we thank Sandy for his contributions and congratulate him on his tenure as a member of the PIDB.
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Join Us at the “Free Speech Legacies: The Pentagon Papers Revisited” Symposium February 16-17, 2017

Please join PIDB member Sanford Ungar at the “Free Speech Legacies: The Pentagon Papers Revisited” symposium on February 16-17, 2017 at Georgetown University.   The event is free and you can register at tinyurl.com/freespeechlegacies.

Mr. Ungar orchestrated the symposium, which will feature a variety of distinguished panelists, including Floyd Abrams, Martin Baron, David Cole, David Sanger, Bob Woodward, and others.

The symposium will commence Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. with a public dialogue between Mr. Ungar and Daniel Ellsberg on the importance of the Pentagon Papers when originally published in 1971 and today.  We hope to see you at the symposium.  You can view more information about the legacy of the Pentagon Papers here.

 

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What We Heard and Learned at the Public Meeting

On December 8, 2016, the PIDB held a public meeting to hear and discuss recommendations for improved transparency and open government for the new Presidential Administration. The meeting was an opportunity to also solicit ideas for revising Executive Order 13526, “Classified National Security Information” from our internal and external government stakeholders, including leaders of civil society.  You may view a recording of the meeting here.

The meeting began with an introduction of the PIDB’s two newest members, Mr. Trevor Morrison and Judge James Baker, accompanied by remarks from Mr. Morrison who will serve as the new chair.  Mr. Morrison described the PIDB’s work plan for 2017, including the desire to frame recommendations to the new Administration that support three specific policy initiatives:  reducing over-classification, improving declassification, and ensuring a credible and transparent security classification system.  The Archivist of the United States, Mr. David Ferriero, provided a welcome and update on the open government initiatives promoted at the National Archives, including the work of the Archives to fulfill its mission to “make access happen.”

The PIDB was pleased to have Mr. Alexander Joel, Chief of the Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy and Transparency for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, serve as the keynote speaker at the meeting.  Mr. Joel described the four principles of transparency established by the Director of National Intelligence and his role in the stand-up of the Intelligence Transparency Council, which seeks ways to implement transparency initiatives into the processes and practices of agencies within the Intelligence Community (IC).  Mr. Joel also spoke at length about the issues of compliance and impact of transparency in the IC, and he discussed the costs of transparency, in terms of fulfilling the mission of the IC and in ensuring its credibility to the public it serves.

Ms. Sheryl Shenberger, Director of the National Declassification Center (NDC), provided comments on the successes of the NDC in building and refining its processes to both retire the NDC’s 351 million page backlog and to maintain a steady declassification review program of the new accessions received at the NDC each year.  She provided her thoughts on ways the NDC’s authorities and role may expand to continue building upon the successes it has achieved to date.

Leaders of civil society shared thought pieces on recommendations for the new Administration concerning secrecy and the need for limiting classification to the minimum necessary for national security imperatives.  We heard from Dr. Patrice McDermott of OpentheGovernment.org, Mr. Nate Jones from the National Security Archive, Ms. Elizabeth Goitein from the Brennan Center for Justice, and Mr. Steven Aftergood from the Federation of American Scientists.  You may view the white papers drafted by these presenters here.

The members wish to thank those who presented and who attended the public meeting for their interest in the work of the PIDB.  They are pleased to enjoy a healthy relationship with the civil society community and its leaders and hope to facilitate more conversation around the need to improve declassification and better manage classified information as a government.

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