GAO re­port sees risk in clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

The Jus­tice De­part­ment’s clas­si­fi­ca­tion­pro­gram,whichde­ter­mines what in­for­ma­tion could rea­son­ably be­ex­pect­ed­to­dam­ageth­e­coun­try’s na­tional se­cu­rity if dis­closed pub­licly, is at risk be­cause of a lack of ad­e­quate staffing, ac­cord­ing to a gov­ern­ment re­port.

In a 50-page re­port on Nov. 21, the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice said the de­part­ment’s clas­si­fi­ca­tion-man­age­ment pro­gram needs to as­sess its “op­ti­mum” man­power re­quire­ments, de­velop a strat­egy to meet them, and then im­ple­ment in­ter­nal con­trols “to en­sure proper use of sen­si­tive but un­clas­si­fied des­ig­na­tions.”

“The Septem­ber 11 at­tacks showed that agen­cies must bal­ance the need to pro­tect and share sen­si­tive­in­for­ma­tion­to­pre­vent­fu­ture­at­tacks,” the re­port says. “Agen­cies clas­sify this in­for­ma­tion or de­sig- nate it sen­si­tive but un­clas­si­fied to pro­tect and limit ac­cess to it.”

But,ac­cord­ing­totheGAO,thede­part­men­ti­satriskbe­cau­sei­thas­not ad­dressed the prob­lem of in­suf­fi­cient staffing to ef­fec­tively man­age and over­see the pro­gram, not­ing it has one staff mem­ber to cover de­part­men­twide train­ing is­sues and three staffers to over­see 3,500 lo­ca­tions un­der the pro­gram.

“Ac­cord­ing to the pro­gram man­ager, with th­ese re­sources, the se­cu­rity of­fice was re­act­ing to clas­si­fi­ca­tionis­suesthataroseratherthan be­ing­proac­tive­to­pre­vent­them,”the GAO said.

Staffing in­creases for the Jus­tice De­part­ment pro­gram were rec­om­mended by the Na­tional Archives’ In­for­ma­tion Se­cu­rity Over­sight Of­fice, which re­viewed se­cu­rity pro­ce­duresinJu­ly2004andApril2005. GAO was asked this year to see how well the de­part­ment and the FBI had re­sponded to the re­quest.

The GAO said At­tor­ney Gen­eral Al­berto R. Gon­za­les should de­ter­minewhat­staffin­ghe­need­sto­carry out the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the de­part­ment’s clas­si­fi­ca­tion-man­age­ment­pro­gra­mand­de­viseastrat­egy to make those re­sources avail­able and use them ef­fec­tively.

Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cials, ac­cord­ing­totheGAOre­port,saidit“is try­ing to ad­dress its re­sources con­straints, a long-stand­ing prob­lem thatGAOi­den­ti­fiedasearlyas1993, byre­questin­gad­di­tion­al­funds­from an ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­count in fis­cal year 2007.”

TheGAOnot­edthatall­record­sof a per­ma­nent his­tor­i­cal value older than 25 years that con­tain clas­si­fied na­tional se­cu­rity in­for­ma­tion au­to­mat­i­cally will be de­clas­si­fied on Dec. 31, and each year there­after, and“may­beavail­able­for­pub­licdis­clo­sure, un­less an agency head or se­nior agency of­fi­cial de­ter­mines that th­ese records fall within an ex­emp­tion that per­mits con­tin­ued clas­si­fi­ca­tion.”

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