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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