The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) held its first virtual meeting last month. The members used this occasion to publicly release their 2020 Report to the President, A Vision for the Digital Age: Modernization of the U.S. National Security Classification and Declassification System. They invited comments and discussion of their recommendations. During the meeting Steven Aftergood, of the “Secrecy News” blog sponsored by the Federation of American Scientists, served as commentator and provided his views on the recommendations, including the recommendation for the President to appoint a Cabinet head as the Executive Agent responsible for coordinating new policies and applying technologies to improve performance goals in classification and declassification across the Executive branch.
In addition to addressing the need to coordinate policies and the application of technology in managing the explosive volume of classified digital data, participants in the virtual public meeting discussed:
- designating the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) as the Executive Agent to coordinate the modernization of classification and declassification across the Federal Government;
- developing new metrics and measures for understanding how the government creates, uses, stores and works with all information in the digital space, including the actual line item costs of classification and declassification across agencies;
- applying Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies already in use at agencies in mission-focused areas to support specific performance goals in classification and declassification;
- simplifying classification into a two-tiered system;
- prioritizing topics of public interest for potential declassification; and
- expanding the focus on individual instances to develop a broader consensus on questions of overclassification;
The PIDB looks forward to continuing discussions with the public and with stakeholders inside and outside of government. There is consensus that the current system is failing. The recommendations in this report aim to help Government modernize the classification and declassification system.