Secrecy News

ISCAP to Provide Increased Disclosure of Its Decisions

The Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) is preparing to provide improved public notification of its declassification and disclosure decisions.

The ISCAP, among its other duties, considers and rules on appeals from the public to declassify records that agencies have refused to release.  The Panel, which was established by executive order in 1995, has actually succeeded beyond all reasonable expectations, declassifying information in the majority of cases presented to it.  (My own requests were not among those that were decided in favor of disclosure.)  According to the latest annual report from the Information Security Oversight Office:

“Since May 1996, the Panel decided upon a total of 1,195 documents. Of these, the Panel declassified additional information in 64 percent of the documents. Specifically, 291 documents (24 percent) were declassified in their entirety and 477 documents (40 percent) had some portions declassified while the classification of other portions was affirmed. During this time frame, the Panel fully affirmed the classification decisions of agencies in 427 documents (36 percent).”

Last week, the ISCAP issued revised bylaws, including a new section on “dissemination of ISCAP decisions” (sec. 2003.14).

This section corresponds to the so-called “fourth function” assigned to ISCAP by President Obama’s executive order 13526 that required the Panel to “appropriately inform senior agency officials and the public of final Panel decisions….”  That provision did not exist in previous Administrations’ executive orders, which listed only three functions for the ISCAP.

Another revised provision of the bylaws puts the ISCAP at the President’s disposal to carry out other unspecified advisory functions, as needed.  In language oddly reminiscent of the 1947 National Security Act section that was understood to authorize CIA covert action (by which the Agency is “to perform such other functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the National Security Council may from time to time direct”), the ISCAP bylaws (sec. 2003.15) state somewhat evasively:

“As directed by the President through the National Security Advisor, the ISCAP performs such additional advisory functions as are consistent with, and supportive of, the successful implementation of the Order.”