IG Finds Classification Program at EPA Full of Errors

11.19.13 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

A new review by the Inspector General of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that classified documents at the Agency are riddled with errors.

Because the EPA has a minuscule classification program that hardly generates any classified material, it may be seen as a microcosm of the larger classification system. Only eight original classifications have been approved since the EPA Administrator was given authority to classify by President Bush in 2002, with a modest number of derivative classifications based on those.

Even so, the Inspector General wrote, “Our review of both originally and derivatively classified documents generated by three offices found that the EPA does not sufficiently follow national security information classification standards.”

“Of the two originally classified documents we reviewed, portions of one needed different classification levels and the other contained numerical data that was incorrectly transferred from another document,” the IG report said.

Meanwhile, “None of the 19 derivatively classified documents we reviewed completely met the requirements of Executive Order 12356 and the implementing regulations.”

See EPA Does Not Adequately Follow National Security Information Classification Standards, Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General, November 15, 2013.

Some of the IG’s objections seem persnickety.

“A classified paragraph portion was incorrectly marked as U/FOUO rather than as U//FOUO,” the report stated. This is considered a problem because “Having one versus two slashes can change the meaning.”

Other findings can easily be generalized to the entire classification system.

“EPA needs to declassify information in a timelier manner,” the IG said.

As with other agency IG reviews of classification policy required under the Reducing Over-Classification Act, the EPA Inspector General deliberately took a superficial view of the problem of overclassification. The IG review examined EPA compliance with existing classification policies and procedures. But it did not consider whether those policies and procedures are themselves to blame for widespread overclassification and, if so, how they ought to be changed.