from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2018, Issue No. 70
December 12, 2018

Secrecy News Blog:


Two years ago, the House Intelligence Committee asked the Director of National Intelligence to improve the government's controversial policy on reviewing books, articles and speeches by current and former intelligence employees prior to their publication, so as to make the process more uniform, timely and fair.

That has still not been accomplished, but a new policy is on the way, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

"An IC-wide policy on prepublication review is being formulated and is forthcoming," wrote ODNI FOIA Chief Sally A. Nicholson on November 20. "However, it is not completed as of today's date."

In 2016, the House Intelligence Committee reported that it is "aware of the perception that the pre-publication review process can be unfair, untimely, and unduly onerous and that these burdens may be at least partially responsible for some individuals 'opting out' of the mandatory review process. The Committee further understands that IC agencies' pre-publication review mechanisms vary, and that there is no binding, IC-wide guidance on the subject."

The Committee specified its own view of what a new, improved policy should entail, including a clear statement of the scope of the policy, with requirements for timely responses and procedures for appealing adverse decisions.

"The Committee believes that all IC personnel must be made aware of pre-publication review requirements and that the review process must yield timely, reasoned, and impartial decisions that are subject to appeal. The Committee also believes that efficiencies can be identified by limiting the information subject to pre-publication review, to the fullest extent possible, to only those materials that might reasonably contain or be derived from classified information obtained during the course of an individual's association with the IC. In short, the pre-publication review process should be improved to better incentivize compliance and to deter personnel from violating their commitments," the Committee wrote in its report on the FY 2017 intelligence authorization act.

Until the new IC-wide policy is promulgated, current and former ODNI employees must comply with ODNI's existing pre-publication review policy, last revised in 2014.

"Correct unclassified sourcing is critical in executing pre-publication review," that 2014 policy states. "ODNI personnel must not use sourcing that comes from known leaks, or unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information. The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security. ODNI personnel are not authorized to use anonymous sourcing."

Other intelligence agency personnel are subject to the rules issued by their respective agencies.


One of the most vexatious aspects of the system of granting security clearances for access to classified information has been the reluctance of some government agencies to recognize the validity of clearances approved by other agencies, and to require new investigations and adjudications of previously cleared personnel.

A new directive from the Director of National Intelligence seeks to finally resolve this longstanding problem by mandating "reciprocity," or mutual acceptance of security clearances issued by other agencies. See Reciprocity of Background Investigations and National Security Adjudications, Security Executive Agent Directive 7, November 9, 2018.

With certain exceptions, "Agencies shall accept national security eligibility adjudications conducted by an authorized adjudicative agency at the same or higher level," DNI Daniel R. Coats wrote.

"Background investigations and national security eligibility adjudications, conducted by an authorized investigative agency or authorized adjudicative agency, respectively, shall be reciprocally accepted for all covered individuals," again with certain exceptions.

In most cases, cleared personnel would not be required to fill out a new security clearance questionnaire or to undergo a new background investigation in order for their clearances to be recognized and accepted by another agency.

(Reciprocity refers to mutual recognition by agencies of an individual's eligibility for access to classified information. Whether the individual also has the requisite "need to know" the information requires a separate determination.)

Security clearance reciprocity is an elusive policy goal that has been pursued since the Clinton Administration, if not longer.

A 2004 study by the Defense Personnel Research Center investigated the failure to fully implement reciprocity at that time and attributed it to issues of "turf and trust."

"Virtually all respondents agreed that beneath the lack of complete reciprocity there is a certain lack of trust based on fear." See Security Clearance Reciprocity: A Progress Report, PERSEREC, April 2004.

A new bill introduced by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) would require reporting on the number of individuals whose clearances take more than 2 weeks to be reciprocally recognized after they move to a new agency or department. See "Vice Chairman Warner Introduces Legislation to Revamp Security Clearance Process," news release, December 6.


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

Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Background and Selected Options for Further Reform, December 4, 2018:

The War Powers Resolution: Concepts and Practice, updated December 11, 2018:

U.S. International Food Assistance: An Overview, December 6, 2018:

U.S.-Mexico Economic Relations: Trends, Issues, and Implications, updated December 6, 2018:

Cryptocurrency: The Economics of Money and Selected Policy Issues, December 7, 2018:

Venue: A Legal Analysis of Where a Federal Crime May Be Tried, updated December 6, 2018:

Debt and Deficits: Spending, Revenue, and Economic Growth, CRS In Focus, December 4, 2018:

U.S. Gun Policy: Framework and Major Issues, CRS In Focus, December 3, 2018:

Russian Compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: Background and Issues for Congress, updated December 7, 2018:

Russia, the Skripal Poisoning, and U.S. Sanctions, CRS In Focus, updated December 4, 2018:

Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects, updated December 10, 2018:


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

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