Government attorneys said yesterday that they would appeal an extraordinary judicial ruling that required the release of a classified document in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The document in question is a one-page position paper produced by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) concerning the U.S. negotiating position in free trade negotiations. It was classified Confidential and was not supposed to be disclosed before 2013.
But immediate disclosure of the document could not plausibly cause damage to the national security, said DC District Judge Richard W. Roberts in a February 29, 2012 opinion, and so its continued classification, he said, is not “logical.” He ordered the government to release the document to the Center for International Environmental Law, which had requested it under FOIA. (Court Says Agency Classification Decision is Not ‘Logical’, Secrecy News, March 2, 2012.)
This kind of independent review of the validity of classification decisions, which is something that judges normally refrain from doing, offers one way to curb galloping overclassification.
While the substance of the USTR document is likely to be of little general interest, the court’s willingness to disregard the document’s ill-founded classification and to require its disclosure seems like a dream come true to critics of classification policy. If the decision serves as a precedent and a spur to a more broadly skeptical judicial approach to classification matters, so much the better.
But what may be a dream to some is a nightmare to others. The bare possibility of such an emerging challenge to executive classification authority was evidently intolerable to the Obama Administration, which will now seek to overturn Judge Roberts’ ruling in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
To empower new voices to start their career in nuclear weapons studies, the Federation of American Scientists launched the New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship. Here’s what our inaugural cohort accomplished.
Common frameworks for evaluating proposals leave this utility function implicit, often evaluating aspects of risk, uncertainty, and potential value independently and qualitatively.
The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]
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