A federal advisory board wants to change the national security classification system in order to reduce unneeded secrecy. Currently, agencies classify information as top secret, secret and confidential. The Public Interest Declassification Board is recommending the information only be divided into two categories: top secret and “lower level.”
Information is classified based on the level of potential damage to national security it could cause. This new system of classification focuses on the “minimum level of protection needed” as a way to cut down on over-classification. Too often, classifiers struggle to distinguish criteria between the three levels and tend to default to the higher secret classification.
The report also includes the following recommendations to help cut down on over-classification:
- Allowing automatic declassification of information that’s sensitive for only a short period of time.
- Strengthening the National Declassification Center, which is struggling to deal with a backlog of records.
- Protect agency classifiers who decide that records don’t warrant secrecy.
With the increase in digital technology, there is much more information for agencies to keep secret. Last year, agencies spent $11.4 billion to protect secrets according to the Information Security Oversight Office. This is more than double the amount a decade ago, which is why the advisory board is adamant in reforming this process.
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