from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2013, Issue No. 98
November 19, 2013

Secrecy News Blog:


A new review by the Inspector General of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that classified documents at the Agency are riddled with errors.

Because the EPA has a minuscule classification program that hardly generates any classified material, it may be seen as a microcosm of the larger classification system. Only eight original classifications have been approved since the EPA Administrator was given authority to classify by President Bush in 2002, with a modest number of derivative classifications based on those.

Even so, the Inspector General wrote, "Our review of both originally and derivatively classified documents generated by three offices found that the EPA does not sufficiently follow national security information classification standards."

"Of the two originally classified documents we reviewed, portions of one needed different classification levels and the other contained numerical data that was incorrectly transferred from another document," the IG report said.

Meanwhile, "None of the 19 derivatively classified documents we reviewed completely met the requirements of Executive Order 12356 and the implementing regulations."

See "EPA Does Not Adequately Follow National Security Information Classification Standards," Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General, November 15, 2013:

Some of the IG's objections seem persnickety.

"A classified paragraph portion was incorrectly marked as U/FOUO rather than as U//FOUO," the report stated. This is considered a problem because "Having one versus two slashes can change the meaning."

Other findings can easily be generalized to the entire classification system.

"EPA needs to declassify information in a timelier manner," the IG said.

As with other agency IG reviews of classification policy required under the Reducing Over-Classification Act, the EPA Inspector General deliberately took a superficial view of the problem of overclassification. The IG review examined EPA compliance with existing classification policies and procedures. It did not consider whether those policies and procedures are themselves to blame for widespread overclassification and, if so, how they ought to be changed.


The Director of National Intelligence yesterday declassified and released hundreds of pages of records concerning collection under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, illuminating the origins of bulk collection of email metadata, as well as interactions with the FISA Court and Congress.

"We will make the information public that we can make public, and we will be more transparent about this than has ever been the case in history," said White House press secretary Jay Carney at an October 28 news briefing. "That is already true. We have released more information about what the NSA [does] than has ever been released before."

By themselves, the latest disclosures (provided in response to FOIA litigation brought by ACLU and EFF) are unlikely to resolve ongoing disputes about NSA intelligence gathering. The legitimacy of bulk collection of email and telephone metadata may ultimately be more of a value judgment rather than a factual or legal one. At a minimum, perhaps the new documents will provide a more substantial basis for informed debate.

But there is disagreement even about that.

"Some would like to believe these disclosures have started a debate about the propriety and efficacy of NSA surveillance programs but, in fact, to a substantial degree, recent unauthorized disclosures have ended the debate because, once disclosed, the programs at issue become substantially less effective," according to a November 12 report from the Senate Intelligence Committee. "The nation will suffer as a result."

The Public Interest Declassification Board will hold an open meeting at the National Archives on Thursday, November 21. The Board proposes to focus on prioritizing topics and events for declassification. The intended emphasis is on declassification of historical records, but it need not be limited to that.

Although willful abuse of classification authority is not unheard of, there seems to be no case in which it has ever been penalized. "I am extremely concerned that the integrity of the classification system continues to be severely undermined by the complete absence of accountability in instances such as this clear abuse of classification authority," wrote J. William Leonard, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, in an October 18 letter.

He was responding to the controversial classification of evidence concerning the defilement of human remains in Afghanistan. See "Marine Corps fight escalates over handling of case involving troops urinating on corpses," Washington Post, November 15; and "Marine Corps Commandant Accused of Improper Classification," Secrecy News, July 30.


"In 2012, 46.5 million people were counted as poor in the United States," according to a newly updated annual report from the Congressional Research Service. "The number, statistically unchanged over the past three years, is the largest recorded in the measure's 54-year history."

"Poverty in the United States increased markedly from 2007 through 2010, in tandem with the economic recession (officially marked as running from December 2007 to June 2009). Little if any improvement in the level of 'official' U.S. poverty has been seen since the recession's official end, with the poverty rate remaining at about 15% for the past three years."

See "Poverty in the United States: 2012," November 13, 2013:

Other new or updated CRS reports that Congress has sought to withhold from online public distribution include the following.

China's Political Institutions and Leaders in Charts, November 12, 2013:

Internet Governance and the Domain Name System: Issues for Congress, November 13, 2013:

Multilateral Development Banks: Overview and Issues for Congress, November 8, 2013:

Georgia's October 2013 Presidential Election: Outcome and Implications, November 4, 2013:

Health Benefits for Members of Congress and Certain Congressional Staff, November 4, 2013:


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

The Secrecy News blog is at:

To SUBSCRIBE to Secrecy News, go to:


OR email your request to

Secrecy News is archived at:

SUPPORT the FAS Project on Government Secrecy with a donation here: