Agencies classifying less information

Friday - 4/16/2010, 5:02pm EDT

WFED's Jason Miller

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Agencies are classifying less data and the information they do make confidential is staying that way for less time than ever.

The National Archives and Records Administration's Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) found about 1,600 fewer individuals were given the authority to classify information in 2009 as compared to 2008.

The ISOO says the State Department's decision to reduce the number of its employees with classification authorities is one big reason for the decrease. State delegated classification authority to only 999 employees, down from 2,560 in 2008.

Agencies also told ISOO that they made 10 percent fewer classification decisions last year than in the previous year.

The ISOO released these statistics April 15 in its annual report to the President on the status of governmentwide security classification program.

"Agencies must strike a balance between preserving, protecting, and advancing National Security and supporting the goal of conducting business in an open manner to the greatest extent possible," writes William Bosanko, ISOO director, in a letter to President Obama.

The progress comes as the Obama administration issued an executive order in December instructing agencies to declassify information and standardize how they use terms such as top secret or for official use only.

"[O] ur oversight efforts continue to identify shortcomings in agency implementation of basic requirements," Bosanko writes. "Of particular concern are requirements related to implementing directives, security education and training, classification guides, and self-inspections. With the direction you provided on December 29, 2009, there is renewed emphasis on each of these critical areas but sustained vigilance on the part of senior leadership within the agencies is critical to success."

Agencies reported that 67 percent of all decisions in 2009 would be classified for 10 years or less. ISOO reports this is the highest percentage since 1996.

Agencies still have challenges to declassify information. ISOO reports that of the 51.9 million pages reviewed, only 21.8 million pages were released to the public.

This is an 8 percent decrease as compared to 2008.

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