Thursday, February 24, 2011

DOD won't do it...


The Obama Administration has taken several initial steps to modernize the national security classification system and to combat overclassification. But those halting efforts are being undermined by the Department of Defense, which is not implementing the President's policy.

DoD, which is the government's largest producer of classified information, has failed to update its internal regulation on information security, despite a specific Presidential directive to do so. The result is that military components today are following old, incomplete and misleading guidance on classification policy.

For example, one such component, U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), said on February 20 that it was unaware of a current requirement to update and correct its classification guidance. It had "no records" pertaining to the performance of a Fundamental Classification Guidance Review, which was required by President Obama's Executive Order 13526. Why? Because, it said, "no Review was required [by] DoD 5200.1-R," the Pentagon's regulation on information security (pdf).

This is a startling misunderstanding and a grievous lapse of responsibility on the part of the Pentagon. The reason that TRANSCOM is unaware of the new requirement to perform a Fundamental Classification Guidance Review is that DoD's internal regulation 5200-1.R on classification policy has not been updated since January 1997! In effect, DoD has been blocking the transmission of the President's instructions to classifiers and declassifiers in the field.

This in itself is an act of defiance, particularly since the President himself ordered senior agency officials to prepare new classification policy regulations. "Such regulations shall be issued in final form within 180 days of ISOO's publication of its implementing directive for the order," President Obama wrote in his December 29, 2009 memorandum that accompanied the issuance of Executive Order 13526.

The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) did publish its implementing directive (pdf) for the Executive Order on June 28, 2010. Therefore, agencies officials were obliged to complete their implementing regulations 180 days later, by the end of December 2010. At the Pentagon, officials failed to comply.

"The promulgation of implementing regulations for [President Obama's] E.O. 13526... is not an optional activity," said William J. Bosanko, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, which oversees the classification system.

"Such regulations serve as the foundation for the implementation of the Order at each agency," he explained. "Failure to update regulations in a timely manner impedes the implementation of the President's direction and risks undermining the confidence in the classification system. It also places classified information at needless risk and otherwise makes it difficult to hold accountable those who fail to meet their responsibilities."

"How can we expect personnel to properly classify, safeguard, and declassify national security information if we do not provide them with the 'rules'? How can we maintain the trust of the American people and our State, local, tribal, private sector, and foreign partners if we don't even comply with the most basic requirements ourselves?"

Mr. Bosanko said that ISOO was pressing for agency compliance with the requirements of the executive order. He said the status of such compliance would be addressed in the forthcoming FY 2010 ISOO Report to the President.

Meanwhile, throughout the Department of Defense, officials are diligently following the wrong instructions. According to the DoD directives website, the 1997 regulation 5200-1.R -- with all of its outdated guidance -- is currently one of the top five most frequently downloaded DoD publications.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Pentagon Papers...

From Secrecy News...


The National Declassification Center (NDC) at the National Archives will declassify the full text of the Pentagon Papers as well as the underlying documentation on which they are based, along with investigative material concerning the 1971 leak of the Papers by Daniel Ellsberg, the NDC said yesterday.

"One matter to keep in mind concerning the Pentagon Papers is that there is no complete record of the report in the public domain," the NDC blog said.

The Pentagon Papers Project "is both an interagency and intra-agency effort. NARA is working closely with its partners in the intelligence and defense communities, and the Department of Justice to ensure that we make available as much of this historical collection as possible."

But one wonders why a "project," complete with inter- and intra-agency coordination, is necessary at all to process defense policy records that were mostly made public 40 years ago. A better use of public resources would be to wave a wand and simply declare the records open.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Air Force and Wikileaks...

From Secrecy News...


Secrecy News reported Monday on strange new guidance from the Air Force Materiel Command declaring that Air Force employees and even their family members could be prosecuted under the Espionage Act for accessing the WikiLeaks web site. On Monday night that new guidance was abruptly withdrawn.

Lt. Col. Richard L. Johnson of Air Force Headquarters released this statement:

"Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) recently published an internal news story that discussed the implications of downloading presumed classified information from WikiLeaks. The release was not previously coordinated with Headquarters Air Force and has been removed from the AFMC website. The Air Force has provided guidance to military members and employees to avoid downloading what could be classified information into Air Force unclassified networks and reminded them that publication of information does not itself constitute declassification of such information. The Air Force guidance did not address family members who are not Air Force members or employees. The Air Force defers to the Department of Justice in all non-military matters related to WikiLeaks."

A copy of the withdrawn release is archived here. See also "US air force backtracks over WikiLeaks ban" by Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, February 8, and "No espionage charges for airmen on Wikileaks" by Scott Fontaine, Air Force Times, February 8.


"Aftergood is too close to the center of power," said Julian Assange. "He is not an independent fighter for freedom of information."

The passing criticism of me (I'm also "jealous") was the first thing that caught my eye in the new book "Staatsfeind WikiLeaks" by Der Spiegel reporters Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark. But the book itself is quite a bit more interesting and perceptive than that.

The authors, who are neither fans nor opponents of WikiLeaks, go out of their way to gather new information about the origins and development of the project. They seek out contrasting perspectives and bring them to bear in interesting and challenging ways. Of course, the story is unfinished.

"WikiLeaks is an organization in transition, with a dialectical relation to the mass media. WikiLeaks has changed journalism, but journalism has also changed WikiLeaks," they write.

See the Spiegel website on "Staatsfeind WikiLeaks" here. An English-language excerpt, published last month, is here.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Was Honors Honorable?

From Guest Poster, Keith Taylor....

Perfect isn't good enough


Keith Taylor

Captain Owen Honors, the recently fired executive officer and presumptive next captain of the USS Enterprise was rated by two of his former commanding officers as being perfect. From his fitness reports we would assume if there had been a category "better than perfect," he'd have been marked up to that status. Now, with the help of both, he's disgraced and out the door.

All he did was what sailors of all ranks have done when their ship slipped over the horizon and out of sight of land. He entertained his shipmates with bawdy jokes crossing every line of propriety.

But these weren't just distasteful jokes on the mess decks or the wardroom. They were in a skit taped and broadcast to the crew on a weekly basis. Now we are told that at least four senior officers, all now admirals, knew of it and had the duty to stop anything untoward. Two were his skippers who both gave him perfect marks in his fitness reports.

Captain Honors claims they not only knew of his skits, they tacitly approved of them.

As a an old sailor and officer who fancied himself quite a wit I learned a lot as I worked his way up through the ranks (stopping far short of captain). I always knew which of my superiors liked my jokes and which were offended by them. You can bet when I was a young white hat if I said something that a chief didn't like, I'd be very skittish about telling the same joke to my the division officer.

And so went, on up the ladder. There's just something about hearing, "Knock it off smart ass" that discourages a wannabe comedian.

For all its whiz bang cyber age electronics and gee whiz gadgetry the Navy is still run by people, and while most know their place in the hierarchy, everybody has to grope his way though the ephemeral and unofficial rules of propriety.

But somehow every sailor from the latest boot camp graduate to Admiral Mullen at the top knows when he has crossed the line. Surely the XO of the USS Enterprise would not have persisted in his "XO Movie Night Skit" if Captains (now rear admirals) Larry Rice and Ron Horton plus Rear Admiral Raymond Spicer, and Vice Admiral Daniel Holloway had said, "Uh. Owen. That's over the line for an executive officer."

He could have got the idea if one of them had merely scowled at him. I was never the executive officer of a huge fighting ship, but I got to know some. Every one had the ability to adjust to the withering scowl of a senior officer.

But for the most part no scowls or "tut tuts" were forthcoming, not even from those who might have been personally offended, the women and gays who were often the subject of the jokes in the skits.

As I understand it, "something was said about it" at time and the skits stopped. The entire thing simply died about four or five years ago. Yet we now have a new brouhaha and a valuable officer is gone -- out the door by request.

Now from outside the system, Captain Honors is naming names while maintaining his presumption of innocence. I'd say he certainly had a right to presume no harm was being done.

Try as I might, the worst thing I could see about it is that the skits were simply not very funny. I know about those things. Some years ago I tried standup comedy. Believe me a night facing a quiet audience is a night nobody wants to face. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, who is very funny if you agree with his politics, agrees. He panned hell out of the tapes.

There's an old saying "you can't unring a bell." Perhaps not, but wouldn't it be better to say we can surely try to correct an overreaction. And ought it not be done by the people who overreacted, not a judge?

In 1998 the Navy learned that the hard way. Despite the wacko "Don't ask/don't tell" law, Senior Chief Timothy McVeigh (not the bomber) was being booted from the Navy for being gay. He fought back and a federal judge reversed the entire thing. McVeigh was awarded $90 thousand, promoted and retired as a master chief, and everybody from his commanding officer up to the commander in chief looked silly.

Who knows if there is a cause here for a lawsuit? But the Navy ought to beware. Standing by your guns can be expensive, especially when you have no ammunition in the first place.

And looking silly is unbecoming to those wearing a uniform.

//Keith Taylor is long retired from the Navy and is a freelance writer and author living in Chula Vista. He can be reached at //


Thursday, February 03, 2011

NSA Stands Accused...

From Secrecy News....


A January 31 Secrecy News item on "Diane Roark and the Drama of Intelligence Oversight" focused on the personal friction and hostility that are sometimes generated by the intelligence oversight process. Unfortunately, what I wrote did an injustice to Ms. Roark, the former House Intelligence Committee staffer, and to Thomas Drake, the former National Security Agency official, as well as to the larger issues involved.

I should have made it clear that I do not endorse the criticism of Ms. Roark that was expressed by Barbara McNamara, another NSA official. On the contrary, under prevailing circumstances the "intrusiveness" that Ms. Roark was accused of is likely to be a virtue, not a defect. It is the NSA, not Ms. Roark, that stands accused of mismanaging billions of dollars and operating in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Ms. Roark together with Thomas Drake and others did exactly what they should have done by bringing their concerns about NSA mismanagement to the attention of the DoD Inspector General, among other things. Significantly, they had nothing to gain for themselves. Their actions did not embody any motive of personal interest or self-aggrandizement, but something more like the opposite. They were acting in the public interest, as they understood it. That they (and especially Mr. Drake, who is now under indictment) are suffering for it is a worrisome sign of a broken system.

I also should not have repeated the insinuation from the Drake indictment which implied that he and Ms. Roark had an intimate relationship. This would be irrelevant in any case, but in this case it is also false.

My apologies to Ms. Roark and Mr. Drake.

Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News Blog is at: