from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2016, Issue No. 49
June 10, 2016

Secrecy News Blog:


The Fundamental Classification Guidance Review (FCGR) that was launched by President Obama's 2009 executive order 13526 would be written into statute by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in its version of the FY intelligence authorization act (S. 3017), released this week.

The FCGR has become the primary mechanism for systematically updating agency classification rules and deleting obsolete secrecy requirements. Performed every five years, it entails the review of thousands of individual classification guides. After the first FCGR in 2012, hundreds of such guides were eliminated.

"A reasonable outcome of the review overall, though not necessarily in the case of each program or guide, is to expect a reduction in classification activity across government," wrote William Cira, acting director of the Information Security Oversight Office, in a March 17 memo to agencies initiating the second FCGR, which is to conclude by June 2017.

The FCGR can advance "our shared goals for greater openness and reduced classification activity while protecting legitimate national security interests," wrote DNI James Clapper in a March 23 addendum, embracing the FCGR and adding some new requirements to it.

The Senate bill (section 809) does not modify the existing FCGR process, but would enshrine it in statute.

The new bill includes several other reporting requirements that appear uncommonly assertive, if not intrusive. For example, the Committee would expect the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to keep it informed of all the Board's activities, "including any significant anticipated activities." The Committee would require submission of copies of all memoranda of understanding between U.S. intelligence agencies. And the Committee would require notification of all classified and unclassified presidential directives to intelligence agencies, and their implementation.

In short, the bill would reset the terms of the congressional intelligence oversight relationship, seemingly dispensing with comity and imposing mandatory disclosure to Congress of various categories of records. Executive branch resistance may be anticipated.

For the first time in living memory, the SSCI bill was reported out of Committee on June 6 without a written report to publicly explain and expand upon its provisions. It did, however, include a classified annex.


"In less than 20 years, the entire nature of Member-constituent communication has been transformed, perhaps more than in any other period in American history," observes a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

Congressional offices now receive hundreds of millions of electronic communications from constituents each year, vastly more than they ever did using postal mail or other traditional forms of messaging. One result is a change in "the nature of [political] representation in the United States, as Members can more easily engage wider political and policy constituencies, in addition to their core interactions with their geographic constituencies," CRS said.

See Social Media in Congress: The Impact of Electronic Media on Member Communications, May 26, 2016:

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Security Assistance and Cooperation: Shared Responsibility of the Departments of State and Defense, updated May 26, 2016:

TPP Financial Services Data Flows, CRS Insight, June 3, 2016:

India-U.S. Relations and the Visit of Prime Minister Modi, CRS Insight, June 6, 2016:

FinCEN Seeks Shell-Company Transparency, CRS Legal Sidebar, June 7, 2016:

A Retrospective of House Rules Changes Since the 110th Congress, updated June 7, 2016:

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), updated June 6, 2016:

Financial Aid for Students: Online Resources, updated June 3, 2016:

Federal Inspectors General: History, Characteristics, and Recent Congressional Actions, updated June 2, 2016:

Congress is poised to reject the budget request sought by the Congressional Research Service for the coming fiscal year, with foreseeable consequences.

"What would be the consequences of a flat budget?" asked CRS director Dr. Mary Mazanec at a March 1 hearing of the House Appropriations Committee. "If CRS capacities are not maintained, gap areas will intensify. Right now we have a gap due to an unanticipated departure in Russian and Ukrainian foreign policy. In these areas, as gaps develop, we cannot always immediately backfill, which means it becomes a challenge for us to produce the highly analytical, nuanced work that you expect of us."

"I can almost state with 100 percent assurance that timelines will increase, especially in the areas that are high volume: education, health care, defense, appropriations, and budget. Analysts will be challenged to update and maintain the currency of their reports."

"And finally, one more thing. I don't think we will be able to effectively leverage the vast amount of data that is currently being collected to better inform the work that you expect of us," Dr. Mazanec testified.


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

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