Overclassification: Is There a Limit?

Is there any act of overclassification that is so egregious that the classifier would be held accountable for abusing his classification authority? The answer is unknown, since no one has ever been held accountable in such a case. As far as can be determined, no classifier has ever been found to have willfully or culpably defied the rules set forth in the President’s executive order on national security classification. In a complaint filed last year […]

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NSA Releases NSPD-54 on Cybersecurity Policy

In January 2008, the Bush Administration issued the Top Secret National Security Presidential Directive 54 on Cybersecurity Policy which “establishes United States policy, strategy, guidelines, and implementation actions to secure cyberspace.” Despite its relevance to a central public policy issue, both the Bush and Obama Administrations had refused to release the Directive. But last week, in response to a five-year Freedom of Information Act effort by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the National Security Agency […]

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House Adopts a Comprehensive Reporters Privilege

Late at night on Thursday, May 29, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) introduced an amendment to the FY 2015 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill to provide a near-absolute shield for reporters against compulsory disclosure of their confidential sources. “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to compel a journalist or reporter to testify about information or sources that the journalist or reporter states in a motion to quash the subpoena […]

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Secrecy System Shows New Signs of Contraction

In 2012, the number of newly created national security secrets (or “original classification decisions”) dropped by a startling 42% from the year before, according to the Information Security Oversight Office. It was the largest annual drop ever reported by ISOO, yielding the lowest annual production of new secrets since such numbers began to be collected in 1979. (Secrecy System Shows Signs of Contraction, Secrecy News, June 25, 2013). Now it seems that this 2012 decline […]

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House Intelligence Bill Fumbled Transparency

Intelligence community whistleblowers would have been able to submit their complaints to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) under a proposed¬†amendment to the intelligence authorization act that was offered last week by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). This could have been an elegant solution to the whistleblowing conundrum posed by Edward Snowden. It made little sense for Snowden to bring his concerns about bulk collection of American phone records to the congressional intelligence committees, […]

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CIA Underestimates the Population of Syria

The population of Syria is 17,951,639, according to the CIA World Factbook. That figure (oddly identified as a “July 2014″ estimate) is wrong, according to everyone else. The discrepancy was noted yesterday in the intelligence newsletter Nightwatch. “NightWatch consulted six separate sources for the total population of Syria. They agreed that it is between 22 and 23 million people, not 17.9 million as indicated in the CIA World Factbook. There are about 7 million Syrians […]

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DoD Ops in a C4ISR-Denied Environment, and More

The Department of Defense prepares and trains for military operations in environments in which communications and surveillance are denied or obstructed, a new report to Congress says. Combatant commanders “spend many man-hours… developing frameworks and procedures for using alternative methods, diversifying communications paths and media, and pursuing the ability to use distributed operations in a denied environment.” The issue was summarily addressed in a mandatory report to Congress on “Joint Strategy for Readiness and Training […]

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How DoD Acquires Weapon Systems, and More from CRS

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following. Defense Acquisitions: How DOD Acquires Weapon Systems and Recent Efforts to Reform the Process, May 23, 2014 Defense Acquisition Reform: Background, Analysis, and Issues for Congress, May 23, 2014 U.S. Air Force Bomber Sustainment and Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress, June 4, 2014 The Number of Veterans That Use VA Health Care Services: A […]

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House Intelligence Report: No Second Thoughts

Of the many lessons to be learned from the unauthorized disclosures of classified intelligence information by Edward Snowden, one of them is that the congressional intelligence oversight process did not function properly in the years leading up to those disclosures. It seems indisputable that the intelligence oversight committees did not accurately comprehend or effectively represent the full spectrum of public concern over intelligence surveillance practices. Had they done so, current efforts to limit or revise […]

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Background of Circuit Court Judges, and More from CRS

A new report from the Congressional Research Service “provides an analytic overview of the professional experiences and qualifications of those individuals who are currently serving as active U.S. circuit court judges.” See U.S. Circuit Court Judges: Profile of Professional Experiences Prior to Appointment, May 9, 2014. Other recently updated CRS reports include these: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Recent Activities and Ongoing Developments, May 12, 2014 Teenage Pregnancy Prevention: Statistics and Programs, May 16, 2014 Cybersecurity: […]

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