New online portal with overview of declassification activity

The National Archives has set up a new online portal that provides an
overview of declassification activity in and around the Arvhices, with
input from the National Declassification Center, the Public Interest
Declassification Board, the Presidential Libraries, and the Interagency
Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP).

The new section on ISCAP declassification decisions is of particular
interest, since it provides links to the documents that have been newly
declassified at the direction of the ISCAP, which receives appeals from the
public for release of documents that agencies have declined to declassify. 
Documents declassified through the ISCAP process in the past year include
excerpts of several Presidential Daily Briefs from the 1960s, intelligence
reports on various topics, and several documents on strategic nuclear

The documents were posted in response to Section 5.3(b)(4) of President
Obama's Executive Order 13526, which required that the ISCAP "appropriately
inform senior agency officials and the public of final Panel decisions on
appeals under sections 1.8 and 3.5 of this order."

The release of the latest collection of documents through ISCAP is
commendable, and its publication online is more than welcome.

And yet it is not entirely satisfactory, nor does it seem to comply with
the spirit or the letter of the executive order.  That's because while the
newly posted documents are the products of ISCAP decisions, they are not
the decisions themselves.  And those decisions have not been released.

By definition, every document released through ISCAP represents an error
or a misjudgment by classifiers in the originating agency, who previously
refused to release it to a requester.  Obviously, if the originating agency
had released it, there would have been no appeal to ISCAP, and thus no
occasion for an ISCAP decision to declassify.

But what was the error in each particular case?  Why exactly did ISCAP
overrule the classifiers in the originating agency and order that the
document be released?  And most important:  what are the lessons of each
ISCAP decision for future agency classification and declassification

These questions have no immediate answer.

The Executive Order stated clearly (section 3.1i) that "agencies shall
consider the final decisions of the [ISCAP] Panel" in conducting their own
declassification programs.  But without any articulation of the bases for
the ISCAP decisions, there is nothing for agencies to consider.  All that
can be said with confidence is that the individual document that has been
released can no longer be withheld.  And we knew that already.

It seems that ISCAP does not prepare formal opinions to justify its
actions.  It holds discussions among its interagency membership, and then
it votes.

But if the ISCAP process is to be more than a retail declassification
operation, producing a meager couple of dozen declassified documents per
year, then it needs to do something more.  One way to proceed would be for
ISCAP to issue a concise Record of Decision for each case.  It could
describe the original agency position against disclosure, the ISCAP's
assessment of that position, and the logic of its decision to overrule the
agency and declassify the document, in whole or in part.

In this way, the Panel's impressive efforts to correct agency
classification errors and misjudgements would have a better chance of
propagating throughout the system.

"The ISCAP decisions site is a work in progress, and will be further
refined to better serve the needs of our users," according to an NDC blog
entry on the site.


The Department of Defense this week released a redacted version of the
budget justification for the FY 2010 Military Intelligence Program (MIP).

"The MIP sustains all programs, projects or activities that support the
Secretary of Defense intelligence, counterintelligence, and related
intelligence responsibilities and provides capabilities to meet the
warfighters' operational and tactical requirements whenever and wherever
needed," the document states.

The MIP budget justification for FY 2010, which was submitted to Congress
in 2009, presents dozens of individual military intelligence programs. 
While budget figures have been censored, along with various other
classified matters, the summary descriptions of most of the individual MIP
programs were released more or less intact.

The document (large pdf) was provided to the Federation of American
Scientists in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

"In the last several years, we have embarked on a fundamental change to
the concept of defense intelligence - one that balances the unique role of
support to the warfighter with the recognition that today's security
environment crosses traditional organizational domains," the budget
document says.

"The deep integration of defense intelligence into the larger Intelligence
Community, the evolution of our collaboration with homeland defense
counterparts, and the fostering of committed international partnerships are
all outcomes of this fundamental change," wrote James R. Clapper,
then-Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence) in his introduction to the
budget justification.

In FY 2010, Congress appropriated $27 billion for the Military
Intelligence Program.  The FY 2013 request for the MIP was $19.2 billion. 
The budget appropriation for FY 2012 is to be disclosed by the end of this