Defense Department Overclassifies Memo On Avoiding Overclassification

from the check-that-out dept

It's no secret that the US government is often way too secretive. More specifically, it seeks to "overclassify" documents to keep them secret when there's little reason that they should be. While this may stem from the natural reaction of governments to stay secret, this can have some pretty serious consequences. In fact, there are reasons to suggest that some of our intelligence failings, including the failure to prevent 9/11, came from a lack of communication due to overclassification. Partly to deal with this, President Obama signed the Reducing Over-Classification Act, which required various parts of the federal government to (you guessed it) reduce over-classification. As part of implementing this, federal inspectors general are supposed to "evaluate" the classification policies of the organizations.

The folks over at NextGov note the irony that the Defense Department's memo (pdf) concerning its IG's evaluation of its over-classification issue was itself classified as "For Official Use Only" (FOUO). Now, to be fair, FOUO documents are still considered "unclassified," so you could argue that this isn't really about overclassification. But, it certainly seems to go against the spirit of the effort, which was to encourage greater information sharing and make it easier for the public to remain informed as well.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2012 @ 12:57pm

    You do realize that FOUO basically means "This is an official government document". Hell, half the time, it doesn't even mean THAT much.

    In all reality though, overclassification of documents isn't some sort of government conspiracy to hide everything. It's a side effect of the classification system itself. You have MUCH larger problems from underclassifying something than overclassifying. Classification can ALWAYS be downgraded, and many times, people classify something at the highest rate they can just to play it safe. Upgrading a classification isn't really realistic. Once it's on an unclassified system, then upping the classification is an excercise in ignoring reality, not protecting information.

    Honestly, as much as it pains me to admit it, I'm kind of agree with ootb on this one. The article is quite lame. However, I'll chalk that up to people not really knowing the realities of the classification system :p

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