Secrecy News

Public Interest Declassification Board Falters

The Public Interest Declassification Board was established by Congress in 2000 “to promote the fullest possible public access to a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of significant United States national security decisions.” (FY 2001 Intelligence Authorization Act, Section 703).

Six years later, it has still done no such thing.

In its first practical test, members of Congress asked the Board to review the classification of two recent reports on pre-war Iraq intelligence to determine if more of the text could be disclosed.

But the Board concluded that it could not proceed without White House approval, which was not forthcoming.

This week, reported Rebecca Carr of Cox News, the Board asked Congress to modify its charter to make clear that White House approval is not required for this purpose.

See “Anti-secrecy board unable to gain traction” by Rebecca Carr, Cox News Service, December 8.

The Board will hold its next meeting on December 15 at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

0 thoughts on “Public Interest Declassification Board Falters

  1. This is a private comment reflecting my personal view and not reflecting the views of any government agency.

    I think that you were unduly harsh on the PIDB and that the article to which you linked missed the point altogether. First, to say that the PIDB was created six years ago is more than a bit misleading. Legislation authorizing it may date back that long, but neither the Congress nor White House seemed very eager to name members. My recollection is that it only attained a quorum about a year ago.

    Neither the Moynihan Report (of which it is a faint shadow) nor the legislation creating the PIDB envisages it as a body to determine the appropriateness of individual classification actions and I think the Board is probably correct in questioning whether it even has that authority.

    There is a much more important role to be played by the PIDB in giving advice on policy, particularly on such issues as how the many millions spent on declassification every year by government agencies can be focused to make available the information most important to the American people in knowing what their government is doing. Based on my limited information, I have the impression that the PIDB is a bunch of serious people doing their work in a serious way and that it is too early for a report card.

    Again, please respect that these are my personal views offered because I also think that Secrecy News is a serious publication serving a serious and important function.

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