SASC Rebuffs Pentagon Secrecy Proposals

The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) rejected several legislative proposals submitted by the Department of Defense that would have increased the Department’s secrecy authority.

One proposal would have granted the Defense Intelligence Agency an extension of its “operational files” exemption from the Freedom of Information Act, which expired at the end of 2007. Such an exemption would permit the agency to dismiss FOIA requests for certain types of intelligence records without searching or reviewing the records.

Another proposal would have created new criminal penalties for the unauthorized disclosure or possession of maps and other geospatial products that have been marked for Limited Distribution (LIMDIS).

“For several years, products bearing the LIMDIS caveat have wrongfully been offered for sale to the public through a variety of means from surplus stores to on-line auctions,” the Pentagon said as justification for the proposal.

“Current protection efforts have been ineffective, at least in part, because of the lack of effective penalties for unauthorized possession, sale, and use.”

A third proposal would have expanded the government’s authority to withhold certain unclassified homeland security information from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

The three proposals, all of which were excluded from the Senate Committee mark up of the 2009 defense authorization act, were presented earlier this year in the Pentagon’s own draft of the authorization bill and were described in detail here.