The PIDB Responds to the Director of National Intelligence’s Concerns about Over-Classification and the Need to Modernize the U.S. Classification and Declassification System

Last week, the Wall Street Journal and several other news outlets published stories on the Director of National Intelligence’s concerns about over-classification. The members of the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) agree with Director Avril Haines’s remarks about the national security harm caused by over-classification and the need to modernize the classification and declassification system. They agree that far too much information is unnecessarily classified or classified at too high a level.

Director Haines’s comments echo concerns the PIDB highlighted in previous reports to the President, in posts on the Transforming Classification blog, and in public testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The PIDB’s most recent report to the President, A Vision for the Digital Age: Modernization of the U.S. National Security Classification and Declassification System, addressed these critical challenges and made specific recommendations which, if adopted, will limit classification, make it more precise, and improve declassification and Government transparency.

In November, the PIDB met with Principal Deputy Director for National Intelligence Stacey A. Dixon and other senior officials to discuss the recommendations in the PIDB’s June 2020 Report to the President. From this meeting and in discussions with stakeholders in the Executive branch, Congress, civil society organizations, and with historians and researchers, we believe modernization and new policies to support it are overdue.

The need for integrating information technology into classification and declassification practices is critical to improve information sharing, permit the appropriate declassification of large volumes of electronic data, and enable intelligence and defense organizations to perform tasks that support new national security missions and defend against new national security threats.

There is widespread agreement among senior Executive branch officials, members of Congress, stakeholders, and the public that the current system is outdated, harms our national security and our democracy, and requires radical reform. The PIDB stands read to assist and support the Administration’s efforts to modernize this system to better support our national security and our democratic traditions.

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