INTRODUCTION

Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary has declared that her goal is to make information more accessible wherever possible and appropriate. She has launched a program to disclose previously classified information in such areas and to modify classification practices. The centerpiece of this program is the Openness Initiative, announced on December 7, 1993, "to lift the veil of Cold War secrecy and move the Department of Energy (DOE) into a new era of government openness."1

The problems of classification represent a complex mix of policy and process issues. Defining the appropriate boundary for classification requires a balancing of the cost and benefits of secrecy and of openness. The necessary calculus is complicated and involves significant elements of judgment.

Some of the difficult issues are one step removed from the classification problem itself. For example, a major reason for the Secretary's Openness Initiative was the intense public interest in the environmental consequences of activities in the DOE weapons complex and in the studies of the health effects of radiation exposures. All information of this sort—about environmental, safety, and health (ES&H) effects of DOE programs; biological effects of radiation; and research and development concerning medical, biological, health and safety, and environmental studies—is now unclassified in principle.2 But the information is not necessarily available to the public because many of the documents containing such information may also contain material that is still classified. The documents must therefore undergo a painstaking process of declassification review to determine if they, or the information they contain, can be publicly released. At present there is no comprehensive program for declassification or review of classified documents required by law, except for those considered in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

1  

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Press Secretary, 1993, p. 1.

2  

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Classification, 1994a, p. 40.



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A Review of the Department of Energy Classification Policy and Practice INTRODUCTION Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary has declared that her goal is to make information more accessible wherever possible and appropriate. She has launched a program to disclose previously classified information in such areas and to modify classification practices. The centerpiece of this program is the Openness Initiative, announced on December 7, 1993, "to lift the veil of Cold War secrecy and move the Department of Energy (DOE) into a new era of government openness."1 The problems of classification represent a complex mix of policy and process issues. Defining the appropriate boundary for classification requires a balancing of the cost and benefits of secrecy and of openness. The necessary calculus is complicated and involves significant elements of judgment. Some of the difficult issues are one step removed from the classification problem itself. For example, a major reason for the Secretary's Openness Initiative was the intense public interest in the environmental consequences of activities in the DOE weapons complex and in the studies of the health effects of radiation exposures. All information of this sort—about environmental, safety, and health (ES&H) effects of DOE programs; biological effects of radiation; and research and development concerning medical, biological, health and safety, and environmental studies—is now unclassified in principle.2 But the information is not necessarily available to the public because many of the documents containing such information may also contain material that is still classified. The documents must therefore undergo a painstaking process of declassification review to determine if they, or the information they contain, can be publicly released. At present there is no comprehensive program for declassification or review of classified documents required by law, except for those considered in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. 1   U.S. Department of Energy Office of Press Secretary, 1993, p. 1. 2   U.S. Department of Energy Office of Classification, 1994a, p. 40.

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A Review of the Department of Energy Classification Policy and Practice Identifying the relevant materials in the huge collection of documents under the Department's control is a formidable challenge. Currently DOE estimates that it holds about 280 million classified pages (including copies),3 an estimate up by a factor of 10 over the one given in the Secretary's December 1993 press conference. And the Committee has been told that DOE is losing ground in its declassification efforts—more new classified documents are being generated than old documents are being declassified.4 Thus, in addition to policy questions, the Openness Initiative must address difficult issues of document examination, document control, and public communications. Achieving the Secretary's goal of openness and public access to information potentially affects large areas of DOE policy and operations. Secretary O'Leary does not lack sources of expert advice on these problems. Of particular importance, the Administration has issued Exec. Order No. 12,958—the order that governs the classification, declassification, and control of certain classified information throughout the federal government.5 The Joint Security Commission, at the request of the Secretary of Defense and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has issued a comprehensive report advocating a new approach to security issues.6 The Congress has established a Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy to conduct a thorough review of security issues.7 To the extent possible, DOE's policy needs to 3   Estimate from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Information Resources Management Policy, Plans, and Oversight, February 1995. 4   P.R. Laplante, DOE Office of Declassification, personal communication, 1994. 5   This Executive Order, replacing Exec. Order No. 12,356, was released on April 17, 1995. 6   Joint Security Commission, 1994. 7   The declared purpose of the Commission is ''(1) to examine the implications of the extensive classification of information and to make recommendations to reduce the volume of information classified and thereby to strengthen the protection of legitimately classified information; and (2) to examine and make recommendations concerning current procedures relating to the granting of

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A Review of the Department of Energy Classification Policy and Practice be in harmony with the overall government strategy for control of classified information. DOE is also engaged in its own evaluations. The Department began a broad review of classification policies and procedures in 1990, leading to publication of a study of classification issues in 1992. 8 A key recommendation of that study was that DOE should ''[c]onduct a comprehensive, fundamental review of all nuclear weapon-related information to determine what should be classified under present conditions, with the objective of removing from classification all information that no longer warrants such protection."9 Secretary O'Leary included such a review as part of her Openness Initiative. According to DOE, this effort will evaluate "all existing classification policies and related technical guidance to determine what still makes sense to classify under current world conditions." The review will Issue revised broad policy criteria based on current world conditions and domestic objectives. Apply revised broad criteria in the re-evaluation of detailed technical policy and guidance, and update and issue classification guides at DOE headquarters and in the field to reflect revised policies. Develop procedures for continued, periodic re-evaluations of policy to keep pace with future world conditions and domestic objectives. Develop enhanced automation techniques to support the declassification process by accelerating guidance update and issuance.10     security clearances." Protection and Reduction of Government Secrecy Act, Pub. L. No. 103-236, § 903, 108 Stat. 525, 526 (1994). 8   Meridian Corporation, 1992. 9   Meridian Corporation, 1992, p. 7. 10   Keliher, 1994.

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A Review of the Department of Energy Classification Policy and Practice The DOE Fundamental Classification Policy Review held its first meeting on March 16, 1995. The Committee therefore finds itself in the difficult position of having to comment on a complex subject while it is under far-reaching examination and change by others. DOE has launched efforts to declassify information, while at the same time the overall framework for classification is under study in a variety of fora. The subject of our inquiry has thus evolved and mutated during the course of our scrutiny. We have sought, therefore, to provide an overview that will offer a foundation and framework for evaluating the diverse policy advice that is now or will shortly be available on classified matters. Chapters 1 and 2 of this report discuss the context for the classification system and describe its current operation. Chapter 3 lays out the fundamental principles that guided the Committee's assessment and suggests several basic legislative and regulatory changes. Chapter 4 addresses the complex issues of information policy, and Chapter 5 assesses ways to improve the declassification process. Chapter 6 examines changes in incentives and accountability that will be necessary to significantly alter the current culture of DOE operations. Finally, Chapter 7 presents a summary of the recommendations that appear in Chapters 3 through 6.