DNI Directive Promotes Use of “Tearline” Documents

09.28.12 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

In order to promote improved information sharing, the Director of National Intellingence told agencies to make use of “tearlines.” This refers to the practice of segregating and withholding the most sensitive portions of a document, allowing the remainder to be “torn off,” literally or figuratively, and widely disseminated.

“Tearlines are portions of an intelligence report or product that provide the substance of a more highly classified or controlled report without identifying sensitive sources, methods, or other operational information,” a new DNI directive states. “Tearlines release classified intelligence information with less restrictive dissemination controls, and, when possible, at a lower classification.”

“Tearlines shall be written for the broadest possible readership in accordance with established information sharing policies, and requirements in law and policy to protect intelligence sources and methods.”

See Tearline Production and Dissemination, Intelligence Community Directive 209, September 6, 2012.

In the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Congress mandated that “the President shall… issue guidelines… to ensure that information is provided in its most shareable form, such as by using tearlines to separate out data from the sources and methods by which the data are obtained” (section 1016(d)(1)).

Although the tearline approach also lends itself to public dissemination of national security documents, with particularly sensitive material removed, the new intelligence directive does not explicitly extend to sharing information with the public.