The White House should undertake a focused effort to reduce national
security secrecy, some 30 public interest organizations urged President
Obama in a letter today.
The groups called upon the President to adopt a recommendation of the
Public Interest Declassification Board to set up a White House-led Security
Classification Reform Steering Committee.
“A presidentially appointed Steering Committee would provide a mechanism
for identifying and coordinating needed changes and for overcoming internal
agency obstacles to change,” the group letter said. “It would also reflect
the urgency of reining in a classification system that is largely
To be effective, though, the proposed Steering Committee would need to be
something more than just a deliberative, coordinating body, such as the
ill-fated Security Policy Board of the 1990s.
Specifically, it would require “a clear mandate to reduce the size and
scope of the national security classification system,” the group letter
said, as well as active White House participation to ensure agency
cooperation and compliance.
In principle, reductions in national security secrecy can actually benefit
government agencies by diminishing the significant financial and
operational costs they incur for classification. But in practice, such
reductions have been hard to accomplish and agencies have resisted any
externally imposed limits on their presumed autonomy to classify as they
Of all the potential ways to reduce secrecy that could be envisioned, the
proposal for a White House-led Steering Committee is currently the most
salient. That’s because it was recommended by the Public Interest
Declassification Board, who developed it in response to a request from
President Obama himself.
“I also look forward to reviewing recommendations from the study that the
National Security Advisor will undertake in cooperation with the Public
Interest Declassification Board to design a more fundamental transformation
of the security classification system,” the President wrote in a December
29, 2009 memorandum.
Now the recommendations that the President looked forward to are in hand,
and it will be up to the White House to act.
SURVEY OF FEDERAL WHISTLEBLOWER LAWS, AND MORE FROM CRS
Dozens of federal laws protect employees who report waste, fraud or abuse
by their employers. Some of those laws, particularly those that apply to
private-sector workers, have been strengthened in recent years, according
to a new survey from the Congressional Research Service.
“Eleven of the forty laws reviewed in this report were enacted after 1999.
Among these laws are the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the FDA Food Safety
Modernization Act, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer
Protection Act,” the CRS report said.
The report “focuses on key aspects of the federal whistleblower and
anti-retaliation laws. For each law, the report summarizes the activities
that are protected, how the law’s protections are enforced, whether the law
provides a private right of action, the remedies prescribed by the law, and
the year the law’s whistleblower or anti-retaliation provisions were
adopted and amended.”
The report does not address national security whistleblowers, or those who
disclose classified information with or without authorization. See Survey
of Federal Whistleblower and Anti-Retaliation Laws, April 22, 2013:
Other new or newly updated CRS reports that Congress has not made publicly
available include the following.
State Taxation of Internet Transactions, April 19, 2013:
Drought in the United States: Causes and Issues for Congress, April 22,
Department of Homeland Security Appropriations: A Summary of Congressional
Action for FY2013, April 22, 2013:
The FY2014 State and Foreign Operations Budget Request, April 18, 2013:
U.S.-EU Cooperation Against Terrorism, April 22, 2013:
Expediting the Return to Work: Approaches in the Unemployment Compensation
Program, April 18, 2013:
Economic Recovery: Sustaining U.S. Economic Growth in a Post-Crisis
Economy, April 18, 2013:
Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2013, April 19, 2013:
The U.S. Export Control System and the President’s Reform Initiative,
April 19, 2013:
Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organizations: Source and Scope of the Violence,
April 15, 2013:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the
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