April 14, 2023


This Agency's Declassification Work Could Be a Model for Others: A new paper, based on consultations with government officials and others, looks at what the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has done in recent years. (Courtney Bublé, APRIL 13, 2023, Defense One)

About seven years ago the agency, which is a member of the Defense Department and intelligence community, realized that overclassification was getting in the way of executing its mission. Post-Cold War, the agency was established as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in October 1996 and then after a reorganization and name change from Congress, it became the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in 2003 after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 

"The agency was taking way too long to get its images and information to soldiers on the battlefield and when they finally did get this material to them, it was either too late to be useful, or it was classified at too high a level for our soldiers to share it with their foreign compatriots who they needed to plan attacks with on the frontlines," said the paper.

In other cases, overclassification was getting in the way of working with allied governments and private companies, the working group found. Therefore, the agency took on a review to see what was getting in the way of serving its customers. 

Officials found during the review that the agency was using 65 different classification security guidebooks: many came over from the legacy agencies when it was created, most "were created to keep information from being released," and in others the instructions were re "conflicting, vague, or subjective," said the report. "[The geospatial agency's] top brass immediately recognized that the classification guides, ostensibly created to protect our national security, were instead impairing it by making it nearly impossible for any [agency] official to properly classify or declassify any information or imagery." 

Within five months, the agency consolidated the guides into a single one to rid any "contradictory, subjective, and vague rules" as well as institute "clear requirements to review any classification appeal within 30 days and to modify the [agency's] security classification guidebook five or more times a year based on the outcome of these appeals." 

The bigger problem is that classification prevents perceived intelligence from being subjected to market forces.
Posted by at April 14, 2023 7:41 AM