New Declassification Reforms Are Classified

By August 23, 2021

Legislative measures to improve the process of declassifying classified national security information were introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden in the pending intelligence authorization act for FY2022. But they were included in the classified annex so their substance and import are not publicly known.

“I remain deeply concerned about the failures of the Federal Government’s obsolete declassification system,” Sen. Wyden wrote in a statement that was included in the new Senate Intelligence Committee report on the intelligence bill. “I am therefore pleased that the classified annex to the bill includes several amendments I offered to advance efforts to accelerate declassification and promote declassification reform.”

But the nature of those amendments has not been disclosed. “As absurd as it is to be opaque about the topic of declassification I’m afraid I can’t tell you more right now,” a Committee staffer said. “Sorry.”

“Putting aside the irony of declassification amendments found only in a classified annex, I can confirm that we’re tracking it,” said an intelligence community official.

It requires some effort to think of declassification reforms that could themselves be properly classified. The idea seems counterintuitive. But there are agency declassification guides that are classified because they detail the precise boundaries of classified information. And any directive to declassify an entirely classified topical area would have to begin by identifying the classified subject matter that is to be declassified.

“True perfection seems imperfect,” says the Tao Te Ching (trans. S. Mitchell), and “true straightness seems crooked.” Still, some things are truly crooked.

Categories: classification, Congress, Declassification