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Letter to Director of National Intelligence Clapper Praises Effort to Reduce “Overclassification”

In a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the Brennan Center and other civil liberties and open government groups praised his recent memorandum to reduce overclassification.

April 25, 2016

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, joined by 11 other civil liberties and open government groups, wrote to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) today to praise his memorandum to intelligence agency heads regarding the agencies’ upcoming review of internal classification guidance. The review is mandated by a presidential order, but Director James Clapper asked the agencies to go beyond what the order requires, and to consider reducing the number of officials who can classify information and implementing a discretionary declassification program.

“Overclassification is a longstanding and widely acknowledged problem in the federal government. Far too much information is unnecessarily classified, is classified at too high a level, or remains classified too long,” reads the letter. “The memorandum signals a welcome movement in the direction of greater transparency. It requires agencies to consider concrete changes in the way they classify and declassify information, and could help ensure that the recent trend of reduction in classification decisions continues.”

The letter suggests two additional measures to help ensure the review’s success in reducing unnecessary and harmful overclassification. It recommends that the DNI explicitly instruct agency directors to identify and address vague guidance that does not specifically identify the information requiring classification. It also recommends the involvement of a wide range of external stakeholders, including members of the public, in the review process.

Read the full letter to the Director of National Intelligence.

Read more about the Brennan Center’s work on Liberty & National Security.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Naren Daniel at (646) 292–8381 or