from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2013, Issue No. 41
April 23, 2013

Secrecy News Blog:


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 unchecked."

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 see fit.

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.


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, 2013:

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 Federation of American Scientists.

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