John P. Fitzpatrick, the director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), left his position at the end of last week to join the National Security Council staff.
As ISOO director for the past four years or so, Mr. Fitzpatrick was responsible for oversight of national security classification and declassification activities government-wide.
“John led ISOO in carrying out the President’s programs to improve transparency, openness, and access to information while ensuring that classified national security information is properly protected,” wrote David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, in a January 8 notice to employees of the National Archives, where ISOO is housed.
While there remains much to criticize in classification and declassification policy, Mr. Fitzpatrick presided over a four-year decline in original classification activity, such that by 2014 the number of new national security secrets created annually had dropped to the lowest ever reported by ISOO in its 35 year history.
The change in ISOO leadership comes at a delicate moment, since the entire national security classification system is supposed to go through a systematic recalibration, known as the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review, over the next 18 months. This secrecy re-booting process needs to be closely guided and nurtured if it is to yield optimal results.
But Mr. Fitzpatrick is not going very far, geographically or topically.
“Beginning Monday, 11 January, I will join the National Security Council Staff, Executive Office of the President, as Senior Director for Records Access and Information Security Management,” he wrote in an email message. “There I will assist the NSC/EOP with a portfolio of federal information security policies for classified and controlled unclassified information (classification, declassification, safeguarding, etc.), the National Industrial Security Program and other related security efforts. I will also direct the staff who preserve, safeguard, review and help release NSC records via FOIA, automatic declassification and the like. It promises to be an exciting challenge.”