from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2011, Issue No. 28
March 24, 2011

Secrecy News Blog:


In a process that will shape the future of secrecy policy for better or for worse, a search for a new Director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), which oversees the national security classification system, has formally begun.

"NARA seeks a Director of the Information Security Oversight Office with responsibility for policy and oversight throughout the executive branch of the United States Government for classified national security information and controlled unclassified information," according to a March 21 notice in USA Jobs.

The ISOO Director is the principal overseer of classification and declassification policy, and the scope of his authority over classification practice is broader than that of anyone other than the President. (Though located at the National Archives, the ISOO takes national security policy direction from the White House.)

The Director is responsible "to ensure compliance" with classification policy, and he has the power to "consider and take action on complaints and suggestions from persons within or" -- significantly -- "outside the Government" concerning classification.

According to the President's executive order 13526 (section 3.1e), "If the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office determines that information is classified in violation of this order, the Director may require the information to be declassified by the agency that originated the classification."

With such responsibility and authority in hand, the ISOO Director has the potential to be a powerful driver for change -- or a custodian of the status quo. If it is true that "personnel is policy," as the Reagan-era saying had it, then the choice of a new ISOO Director may define the character of secrecy policy for years to come.

On March 21, the National Archivist appointed William A. Cira, ISOO's Associate Director of Classification Management, as Acting ISOO Director, effective March 27. On that date the current ISOO Director, William J. Bosanko, assumes the new office of Executive for Agency Services at NARA. The job search for a new ISOO Director closes on April 4.


The decision to impose a no-fly zone on Libya is scrutinized from various perspectives in a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

The report distinguishes "authorization" to establish a no-fly zone from the "legality" of the move, and also from its "legitimacy." "The three concepts overlap but are all distinct," the report says.

The report, which may help to inform congressional deliberations, also treats operational and cost issues. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News. See "No-Fly Zones: Strategic, Operational, and Legal Considerations for Congress," March 18, 2011:

"From the Washington Administration to the present, Congress and the President have enacted 11 separate formal declarations of war against foreign nations in five different wars," according to another newly updated CRS report. Yet there have been hundreds of U.S. military engagements over the past two centuries.

The significance of a declaration of war as compared to an "authorization" for the use of force was explored in detail in "Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications," March 17, 2011:

For a brief overview of Japan's nuclear disaster, see "Fukushima Nuclear Crisis," March 15, 2011:


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

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