Agencies Slow to Declassify Old Data


While the Obama administration has sought to reduce over-classification of national security information by 2012, so far the effort has produced no known results, according to an analysis by secrecy expert Steven Aftergood.

The Fundamental Classification Guidance Review, issued in 2009, requires each classifying federal agency to review all its classification and “identify classified information that no longer requires protection and can be declassified.” Even with a 2012 timeline looming, only a few agencies are seriously pursuing the reform, while most others are either ignoring or deferring it, according to a Secrecy News survey of dozens of federal agencies.

The Department of Defense (DoD), which is the largest producer of classified information, is one of the primary agencies behind schedule. Most DoD components have not even started to review their thousands of classification guides, writes Aftergood.

“The result is that military components today are following old, incomplete and misleading guidance on classification policy,” Aftergood writes.

The U.S. Central Command said that it had no records concerning the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review. “We conducted a thorough and good faith search for responsive information,” CENTCOM told Secrecy News. “Despite our extensive and careful search for documents pertaining to your request, we were unable to locate responsive information.”

Agencies that have taken a more diligent approach include the Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of State. Some signification gains have been made overall, including changes in intelligence budget secrecy and nuclear stockpile secrecy, Aftergood notes. However, these important changes have been issue-specific circumstances, rather than from classification reform efforts.

Obama’s reform measure was intended to be a sweeping overhaul of the executive branch’s system for protecting classified national security information, with the idea that “no information may remain classified indefinitely,” Obama declared, as reported by the New York Times.

Chandler Harris is a freelance business and technology writer located in Silicon Valley. He has written for numerous publications including Entrepreneur, InformationWeek, San Jose Magazine, Government Technology, Public CIO,, U.S. Banker, Digital Communities Magazine, Converge Magazine, Surfer's Journal, Adventure Sports Magazine,, and the San Jose Business Journal. Chandler is also engaged in helping companies further their content marketing needs through content strategy, optimization and creation, as well as blogging and social media platforms. When he's not writing, Chandler enjoys his beach haunt of Santa Cruz where he rides roller coasters with his son, surfs and bikes across mountain ranges.

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