Secrecy News

Search for New ISOO Director Begins

In a process that will shape the future of secrecy policy for better or for worse, a search for a new Director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), which oversees the national security classification system, has formally begun.

“NARA seeks a Director of the Information Security Oversight Office with responsibility for policy and oversight throughout the executive branch of the United States Government for classified national security information and controlled unclassified information,” according to a March 21 notice (pdf) in USA Jobs.

The ISOO Director is the principal overseer of classification and declassification policy, and the scope of his authority over classification practice is broader than that of anyone other than the President.  (Though located at the National Archives, the ISOO takes national security policy direction from the White House.)

The Director is responsible “to ensure compliance” with classification policy, and he has the power to “consider and take action on complaints and suggestions from persons within or” — significantly — “outside the Government” concerning classification.

According to the President’s executive order 13526 (section 3.1e), “If the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office determines that information is classified in violation of this order, the Director may require the information to be declassified by the agency that originated the classification.”

With such responsibility and authority in hand, the ISOO Director has the potential to be a powerful driver for change — or a custodian of the status quo.  If it is true that “personnel is policy,” as the Reagan-era saying had it, then the choice of a new ISOO Director may define the character of secrecy policy for years to come.

On March 21, the National Archivist appointed William A. Cira, ISOO’s Associate Director of Classification Management, as Acting ISOO Director, effective March 27.  On that date the current ISOO Director, William J. Bosanko, assumes the new office of Executive for Agency Services at NARA. The job search for a new ISOO Director closes on April 4.

2 thoughts on “Search for New ISOO Director Begins

  1. I see that the Director of ISOO gets a security background investigation, but what security clearances does he/she actually hold, if any? Or is the job effectively outside the classification control system and general access assumed?

  2. Well, to start with, the D/ISOO has Top Secret/SCI clearance. He (or maybe, in the future, she) is also designated by the President as an Original Classification Authority at the Top Secret level.

    Beyond that, the President has ordered that the D/ISOO shall have access to all special access programs created by the Secretaries of Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and the DNI: “The Director of the Information Security Oversight Office shall be afforded access to these programs, in accordance with the security requirements of each program, in order to perform the functions assigned to the Information Security Oversight Office under this order.” (EO 13526, sec. 4.3b3)

    So in principle, the access is extremely broad. In practice, it is much more limited. The D/ISOO does not have the time or resources to inspect or review more than a small fraction of compartmented programs or most other dimensions of the classification system. I believe ISOO only began to review DoD special access programs for the first time this year.

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