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—– Original Message —–
From: "Steven Aftergood" <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 3:00 PM
Subject: Secrecy News — 05/28/08
> SECRECY NEWS
> from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
> Volume 2008, Issue No. 51
> May 28, 2008
> Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
> Support Secrecy News
> ** PRESS RELEASES COULD BECOME "CONTROLLED UNCLASSIFIED INFO"
> ** A DIFFERENT VIEW OF HOMELAND SECURITY INFORMATION
> PRESS RELEASES COULD BECOME "CONTROLLED UNCLASSIFIED INFO"
> Government press releases could be temporarily marked as "controlled
> unclassified information" to protect them from premature disclosure,
> according to an official Background paper on the new White House
> information security policy.
> Controlled unclassified information, or CUI, refers to information that
> does not meet the standards for classification but that is considered
> too sensitive for unrestricted public disclosure. The new CUI policy
> was issued by President Bush on May 7.
> While the precise definitions of CUI and the implementing policy
> directives remain to be written, there are indications that CUI could
> end up as a catch-all category for information that agencies wish to
> Thus, "embargoed press releases" could be designated as CUI for at
> least a few hours, according to the newly released Background paper (at
> page 5, paragraph 8).
> What if a member of the public wants to obtain information that some
> agency has marked as CUI? Well, he should file a Freedom of
> Information Act request, the Background paper says.
> "The FOIA process will provide a straightforward way for anyone to seek
> public release of CUI and ensure that all CUI for which there is a
> demand will be carefully reviewed for release." (at page 6).
> But anyone who has filed a FOIA request knows that the FOIA process is
> not quite straightforward, nor does it produce a timely result.
> The Background paper thus affirms a view that information deemed
> "sensitive" shall be presumptively withheld, and any exceptions shall
> be handled through the FOIA process.
> In truth, this policy of presumptive withholding is pretty much how the
> Bush Administration currently operates. And it makes no tangible
> difference if agencies use 100 different terms for "sensitive" or
> replace them all with one term, "controlled unclassified information."
> But informal, discretionary disclosure was far more common in previous
> Administrations, and it could be once again in some future
> Administration. Institutionalizing presumptive withholding in a
> government-wide CUI policy could make it harder to overcome current
> secrecy practices when the opportunity to do so presents itself.
> On the other hand, Allen Weinstein, the head of the National Archives
> (NARA), told agencies in a May 21 memorandum that CUI would be narrowly
> "NARA, as the Executive Agent and consistent with the President’s
> direction, will ensure that only that information which truly requires
> the protections afforded by the President’s memorandum be introduced
> into the CUI Framework," he wrote.
> This implies that at least some information that is currently withheld
> as sensitive might not qualify for the new CUI marking. But if so, the
> criteria for excluding any existing sensitive information from the CUI
> category have not been identified.
> William J. Bosanko, the Director of the CUI Office, told public
> interest groups at a May 27 meeting that he was committed to an open
> and accountable CUI policy process.
> Various resources on CUI and sensitive information policy are available
> A DIFFERENT VIEW OF HOMELAND SECURITY INFORMATION
> Instead of new forms of secrecy, new mechanisms for actively informing
> the public about threats to homeland security are needed, said Stephen
> E. Flynn of the Council on Foreign Relations at a May 15 hearing of a
> House Homeland Security subcommittee.
> "The targets of choice for current and future terrorists will be
> civilians and infrastructure," he said. "Safeguarding those targets
> can only be accomplished with an informed, inspired and mobilized
> public. The first preventers and the first responders are far more
> likely to be civilians and local officials, not soldiers or federal law
> enforcement officers."
> On September 11, 2001, Mr. Flynn recalled, the only hijacked aircraft
> that was prevented from reaching its target was stopped not by security
> professionals with Top Secret clearances but "by one thing alone: an
> alert and heroic citizenry."
> Yet "overwhelmingly, the national defense and federal law enforcement
> community have chosen secrecy over openness when it comes to providing
> the general public with details about the nature of the terrorist
> threat and the actions required to mitigate and respond to that risk."
> "The discounting of the public can be traced to a culture of secrecy
> and paternalism" that is rooted in the Cold War, when the Soviet threat
> dictated adoption of a highly compartmented security regime. "Despite
> the passage of nearly two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall,
> this secretive system remains almost entirely intact."
> "What is required is a truly collaborative approach which engages civil
> society and taps extensive private-sector capabilities and ingenuity for
> managing risk and coping with disasters. A critical barrier to
> advancing collaboration," Mr. Flynn said, "is excessive secrecy
> throughout the federal government reinforced by a reflexive tendency to
> classify material or to designate it as ‘For Official Use Only’ or
> ‘Treat as Classified’."
> A copy of his May 15 testimony before the House Homeland Security
> Subcommittee on National Security is available here:
> Stephen Flynn, a former Coast Guard officer, addressed related issues
> in the March/April 2008 issue of Foreign Affairs and at greater length
> in a 2007 book "The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation."
> While such views are congenial to proponents of open government, they
> stop short of answering all of the questions that a responsible policy
> maker (let alone a classification officer) would feel obliged to ask.
> Under exactly what conditions does public disclosure of infrastructure
> vulnerabilities promote security rather than diminish it? As a
> practical matter, how does one distinguish between those types of
> information, such as personal privacy or confidential source data, that
> everyone agrees should be protected and threat information that an
> engaged public needs to know?
> There may not be simple answers to such questions. But by framing the
> issue in a way that takes public information needs into account, Mr.
> Flynn and others are helping to redefine the terms of the debate.
> Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the
> Federation of American Scientists.
> The Secrecy News Blog is at:
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> Federation of American Scientists
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