Secrecy News

New Pre-Publication Review Policy is Coming

Two years ago, the House Intelligence Committee asked the Director of National Intelligence to improve the government’s controversial policy on reviewing books, articles and speeches by current and former intelligence employees prior to their publication, so as to make the process more uniform, timely and fair.

That has still not been accomplished, but a new policy is on the way, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“An IC-wide policy on prepublication review is being formulated and is forthcoming,” wrote ODNI FOIA Chief Sally A. Nicholson on November 20. “However, it is not completed as of today’s date.”

In 2016, the House Intelligence Committee reported that it is “aware of the perception that the pre-publication review process can be unfair, untimely, and unduly onerous and that these burdens may be at least partially responsible for some individuals ‘opting out’ of the mandatory review process. The Committee further understands that IC agencies’ pre-publication review mechanisms vary, and that there is no binding, IC-wide guidance on the subject.”

The Committee specified its own view of what a new, improved policy should entail, including a clear statement of the scope of the policy, with requirements for timely responses and procedures for appealing adverse decisions.

“The Committee believes that all IC personnel must be made aware of pre-publication review requirements and that the review process must yield timely, reasoned, and impartial decisions that are subject to appeal. The Committee also believes that efficiencies can be identified by limiting the information subject to pre-publication review, to the fullest extent possible, to only those materials that might reasonably contain or be derived from classified information obtained during the course of an individual’s association with the IC. In short, the pre-publication review process should be improved to better incentivize compliance and to deter personnel from violating their commitments,” the Committee wrote in its report on the FY 2017 intelligence authorization act.

Until the new IC-wide policy is promulgated, current and former ODNI employees must comply with ODNI’s existing pre-publication review policy, last revised in 2014.

“Correct unclassified sourcing is critical in executing pre-publication review,” that 2014 policy states. “ODNI personnel must not use sourcing that comes from known leaks, or unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information. The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security. ODNI personnel are not authorized to use anonymous sourcing.”

Other intelligence agency personnel are subject to the rules issued by their respective agencies.