Classification procedures contributed to persistent misclassification, DoD IG says


Some Defense Department classification procedures contributed to persistent misclassification of documents, a recently released Sept. 30 DoD inspector general report says.

The IG found that 70 percent of the 220 documents reviewed had classification discrepancies and 23 of the documents were misclassified or over-classified, the report (.pdf) says.

And 100 percent of emails the IG reviewed contained errors in marking or classification. Email misclassification often happens because of a default email marking tool settings that allow the user to accept the default without further consideration of whether other markings are required by the email's content, the report says.

Classifiers who were interview by the IG said they had encountered issues with the classification of similar information at differing levels and conflicting guidance on how something should be classified.

Respondents also noted the conflicting guidance regarding disseminating documents, the report says.

The instances of overclassification were due to procedure, though, and not done to conceal violations of law, prevent embarrassment to a person, or prevent the release of information not requiring protection in the interest of national security, the report says.

But Secrecy News's Steven Aftergood thinks the IG report misses the mark.

"The new report is superficial, incomplete and sheds little light on either the problem of overclassification or any potential solution," Aftergood writes.

The DoD IG review treats classification policy mainly as a procedural issue--how classification is performed--rather than a substantive one, he says.

"This is a limited though straightforward approach that lends itself to quantification," Aftergood says.

The report doesn't address current events, he says, including the most recent DoD breaches of classified documents by Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, he says.

"Remarkably, the perpetrators of those breaches expressed a perception that the information they released had been inappropriately classified and withheld from the public, and cited this as a motive for their actions," Aftergood says. "Strictly from a security policy point of view, it seems vital to evaluate such claims."

For more:
- download the report, DODIG-2013-142 (.pdf)
- go to the Secrecy news story

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