CHAPTER 7
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

The principal recommendations of the Committee, explained in the earlier chapters, are summarized below.

A. Basic Principles

  • The goal of the Department of Energy's (DOE) current internal review should be to minimize the subject matter areas that are classified. DOE should seek to construct "high fences around narrow areas"—that is, to maintain very stringent security around sharply defined and narrowly circumscribed areas, but to reduce or eliminate classification around areas of less sensitivity.

  • DOE should shift the burden of proof from the proponents of declassification to the proponents of continued classification.

  • In deciding whether a given subject area should be, or should remain, classified, the Department should require that the benefits of classification clearly outweigh the costs.

    • DOE's current criteria for reviewing information for possible declassification should be expanded to include explicitly the benefits of openness in enabling an informed public debate on public issues, and, more generally, in enhancing the public's right to know what its government is doing.

    • Public availability of information should be an important consideration, although this factor should not be the prevailing or overriding criterion for declassification decisions.

  • DOE's goal should be "open policies openly arrived at." To the maximum extent possible, the debates about new



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A Review of the Department of Energy Classification Policy and Practice CHAPTER 7 SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS The principal recommendations of the Committee, explained in the earlier chapters, are summarized below. A. Basic Principles The goal of the Department of Energy's (DOE) current internal review should be to minimize the subject matter areas that are classified. DOE should seek to construct "high fences around narrow areas"—that is, to maintain very stringent security around sharply defined and narrowly circumscribed areas, but to reduce or eliminate classification around areas of less sensitivity. DOE should shift the burden of proof from the proponents of declassification to the proponents of continued classification. In deciding whether a given subject area should be, or should remain, classified, the Department should require that the benefits of classification clearly outweigh the costs. DOE's current criteria for reviewing information for possible declassification should be expanded to include explicitly the benefits of openness in enabling an informed public debate on public issues, and, more generally, in enhancing the public's right to know what its government is doing. Public availability of information should be an important consideration, although this factor should not be the prevailing or overriding criterion for declassification decisions. DOE's goal should be "open policies openly arrived at." To the maximum extent possible, the debates about new

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A Review of the Department of Energy Classification Policy and Practice information control policies should be open to the public, with ample and credible opportunities for public inputs. DOE should establish an Information Policy Advisory Board, appointed by the Secretary and composed of experienced outside experts broadly representative of the major stakeholders in DOE's classification policy. The Board would initially provide systematic external input to the current fundamental review. Later it could serve a variety of functions, for example, making recommendations on priorities for document declassification efforts. DOE should take further actions in connection with the fundamental review of classification policy. When the joint review is completed, DOE should indicate publicly which areas of information it believes no longer require protection as restricted data (RD). DOE should promptly release a final version of its report entitled "Public Guidelines to Department of Energy Classification of Information." B. Priorities for Legislative and Regulatory Changes DOE should proceed to use its independent authority to reform its policies and practices toward declassification. DOE should also continue to take the lead in seeking declassification of information about nuclear weapons that it believes can be released without undue risk, but is subject to some degree of control by other agencies. DOE should seek legislative authority to simply transclassify to national security information (NSI) any RD that no longer warrants special protection as nuclear-related information but still may be sensitive for other military or diplomatic reasons, thus permitting elimination of the category of formerly restricted data (FRD). DOE should not wait for amendments to the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) to implement desired openness policies that are

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A Review of the Department of Energy Classification Policy and Practice allowed by the Act. Two important policy changes would be Establishing a systematic declassification review of existing documents containing RD, based on priorities reflecting public needs and interests, and on available resources. Prohibiting abuses of classification or the control mechanisms established for RD or FRD. Where possible, DOE should develop and adopt new rules and procedures as regulations issued under the authority of the AEA and pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Specifically, DOE should promulgate a new regulation concerning classification and declassification of RD. C. Issues in Classification Policy DOE should continue to pursue reciprocal exchanges of information with Russia. Specifically, the Department should explore arrangements in which each party to the exchange retains the right to allow or prevent the public release of the information that it is providing to the other party, so that disagreements about whether information should be publicly released do not obstruct mutually beneficial exchanges. The focus on improving control and accounting of Russian fissionable materials should not be allowed to delay the release of declassifiable information about American nuclear weapons that is needed to enable informed debate about policies appropriate to the new international conditions. The Committee recommends a thorough reexamination of the need for unclassified controlled nuclear information (UCNI) as a special category. The Congressional Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy or other appropriate body should reassess UCNI in

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A Review of the Department of Energy Classification Policy and Practice the context of a broader review of controls on unclassified information. DOE should evaluate the costs and feasibility of either treating sensitive information related to facility security as a special category of NSI or omitting it altogether. If UCNI is to continue to be used as the basis for controlling proliferation-related technical information, the critical interpretations that provide the basis for that use should be included in an updated UCNI regulation. If DOE concludes that information now encompassed by UCNI should continue to be protected under this scheme, it should prepare a clear and thorough background information document describing and explaining the rationale for the proposed uses of UCNI and a comparison of alternative approaches to achieving the same objectives. D. Declassifying Documents DOE should develop better estimates of the direct costs of classification. Customer demand should play a paramount role in setting declassification priorities, particularly while DOE policy is undergoing fundamental review and change. A national DOE advisory committee, such as the Information Policy Advisory Board proposed in this report, could provide advice about declassification of information and documents bearing on national policy debates. DOE should set priorities for declassifying documents of historical value using a process like the one it has already established with the National Archives and Records Administration and stakeholders to deal with documents transferred to the National Archives. The Department should ensure that declassification and classification decisions are made in a uniform and consistent fashion for both existing and new documents.

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A Review of the Department of Energy Classification Policy and Practice Any computerized system created by the Department should be designed to facilitate declassification of documents and public access to unclassified and declassified documents. DOE should develop and evaluate faster and more cost-effective declassification methods. DOE should experiment with artificial intelligence (AI) as a screening tool to identify documents most likely to contain RD. To minimize the needless generation of classified documents and to facilitate declassification, DOE should put in place a number of specific procedures: Classified or otherwise controlled information should be included in documents only if absolutely necessary. The classifier of new documents should be required to identify the paragraphs of the DOE Classification Guide requiring the classification action. Portion marking should be required. Segregating the classified portions should be encouraged. Where segregation is not practical, unclassified versions of significant documents of widespread public interest should be prepared. Documents should be coded and indexed so they can be easily tracked, identified, and reviewed for declassification when guides change. Strict guidance for use of derivative classification should be provided. Each document, when classified, should carry with it a schedule for declassification review. E. Incentives and Accountability DOE should include explicit measures of openness in performance measures for agency personnel and contractors.

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A Review of the Department of Energy Classification Policy and Practice The Office of Declassification should have the enhancement of public access to information as a primary responsibility, rather than as a secondary task that competes with other, more traditional goals. DOE should require a substantive justification, in terms of explicit criteria, for keeping an area classified whenever it is subject to declassification review. DOE should seek advice on important classification decisions from the Information Policy Advisory Board. The Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy or other appropriate independent group should consider legislation to ensure that meaningful judicial review is available for data classified under the AEA, as it is for NSI. DOE should clarify the obligations of members of academic and industrial communities who hold security clearances.