HPSCI: Classification of Cyber Security Program is “Excessive”

05.22.08 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The National Cyber Security Initiative, which is “the single largest… and most important initiative” in next year’s budget, is being conducted under “excessive classification,” the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) said in its new report on the 2009 intelligence authorization act.

For the cyber security program to function as intended, “it will require a partnership with industry unlike any model that currently exists. The excessive classification of the [Initiative], however, militates against the collaboration necessary to achieve that partnership.”

That view coincides with the recent assessment of the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding overclassification of the cyber security program.

The 121-page House Intelligence Committee report is full of grist for the intelligence policy mill.

The Committee flexed its oversight muscles by imposing a limit on spending for covert action to no more than 25 percent of the allocated funds until each member of the Committee has been briefed on all covert actions.

“The obligation to report to the committees is not negotiable,” the report declared. “It is not an obligation that the President can ignore at his discretion. It is not an obligation that can be evaded by claiming that briefing the congressional intelligence committees will require other committees to be briefed. It is not an obligation that can be evaded by broad assertions of executive power.”

The Committee would establish a new Inspector General for the entire intelligence community, and would impose new limits and new reporting requirements on intelligence contractors.

The Republican minority said that more should have been done to combat unauthorized disclosures of classified information:

“We are disappointed that the Committee has held no hearings and conducted little to no substantial oversight on this issue during this Congress. In addition, we are concerned that the issue is becoming increasingly politicized, sometimes under the false premise that there are ‘good leaks’ and ‘bad leaks’. The Committee should take a firm and clear position that no unauthorized disclosures of classified information should be tolerated.”

The minority also insisted that “the United States does not torture,” a view that is increasingly hard to reconcile with the public record, including a new report (large pdf) from the Justice Department Inspector General that catalogued many abusive forms of interrogation by U.S. military and intelligence personnel.

See the House Intelligence Committee Report on the 2009 Intelligence Authorization Act, H.Rep. 110-665, May 21.