Congressional Record: July 21, 2004 (Senate)
Page S8537-S8538]


  Mr. GRAHAM of Florida. Madam President, I am delighted to join my 
colleagues Senator Wyden, Senator Lott and Senator Snowe in introducing 
a bipartisan bill that will begin to address our Government's dangerous 
tendency toward excessive secrecy.
  I start from the belief that, in our democratic society, the people 
should have access to all information which their Government holds in 
their behalf. The only exceptions should be for necessary personal and 
company privacy concerns, such as tax returns, and for

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legitimate national security threats, such as protecting the sources 
and methods of gathering extremely sensitive information. The current 
level of abuse of our classification system is so egregious as to be 
  To make matters worse, when the Congress has sought to declassify 
important information, we have allowed the fox to guard the henhouse--
we have allowed the CIA and other agencies to determine what gets 
released to the American public from reports that are critical of their 
  I am personally most familiar with the report of the House and Senate 
Intelligence Committees' Joint Inquiry into the intelligence failures 
surrounding 9/11. After our report was filed in December 2002, it took 
7 months to get a declassified version that we could release. And after 
all those months, the intelligence agencies and the White House refused 
to declassify pages and pages of information that might have caused 
them embarrassment--but certainly did not threaten our national 
  The most famous instance of censorship is the 27 pages that detail 
foreign sources of support of two of the 19 hijackers while they were 
living among us and finalizing their evil plot. For all we know, that 
pattern of support continues to this day. But our report found a number 
of instances where failures to share information were in and of 
themselves threats to national security.
  Had Federal agencies' watch lists of terrorist suspects been shared, 
especially with State and local law enforcement officials, police might 
have detained prior to 9/11 several of the hijackers when they were 
stopped for traffic offenses. We also have learned that the President's 
Daily Brief of August 6, 2001, listed a number of pending threats to 
our homeland, including hijackings of commercial aircraft. If only that 
information had been shared with the airlines through the FAA, the 
airlines could have heightened security on board aircraft and more 
thoroughly screened their passenger lists. Instead, no steps were 
  One of the Joint Inquiry's recommendations, No. 15, called on the 
President and the intelligence agencies to review executive orders, 
policies and procedures that govern national security classification of 
intelligence information:

     in an effort to expand access to relevant information for 
     Federal agencies outside the Intelligence Community, for 
     State and local authorities, which are critical to the fight 
     against terrorism, and for the American public.

  The recommendation also called on Congress to review statutes, 
policies and procedures governing classification. As the recommendation 

       Among other matters, Congress should consider the degree to 
     which excessive classification has been used in the past and 
     the extent to which the emerging threat environment has 
     greatly increased the need for real-time sharing of sensitive 

  The report called on the Director of Central Intelligence, the 
Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland 
Security and the Secretary of State to review and report to the House 
and Senate committees with ``proposals to protect against the use of 
the classification process as a shield to protect agency self-
  Regrettably, none of the executive branch agencies have responded to 
the Joint Inquiry's directives on this issue. So I am pleased to join 
my colleagues in cosponsoring this legislation, which will create an 
Independent National Security Classification Board within the executive 
branch to force the administration and the intelligence agencies to 
respond and to implement new procedures and standards. Once a new 
classification system has been adopted, the independent board will have 
access to all documents that are classified on the basis of national 
security concerns and the authority to review classification decisions 
made by executive branch employees. If the board disagrees with a 
decision, it can make a recommendation to the President to reverse or 
alter the classification.
  If the President doesn't adopt the board's recommendation, he must 
within 60 days explain his decision to Congress:

     and post such notification and written justification on the 
     White House website.

  This will, at the very least, let the American people know that they 
are being denied information.