Congressional Record: July 20, 2004 (Extensions)
Page E1431

                       INTRODUCTION OF H.R. 4855


                    HON. ROBERT E. (BUD) CRAMER, JR.

                               of alabama

                    in the house of representatives

                         Tuesday, July 20, 2004

  Mr. CRAMER. Mr. Speaker, yesterday I was joined by Mr. Boswell of 
Iowa in introducing legislation to create an Independent National 
Security Classification Board to review current standards and 
procedures for the classification of information for national security 
purposes and make recommendations for needed changes.
  Today's classification system is broken. The Executive Branch exerts 
almost total control over what should or should not be classified. 
There is no self-correcting mechanism in the system. The Executive 
Branch has a little known group that can review classification issues, 
but it is seldom used and open only to Executive Branch employees, not 
to Members of Congress or the public.
  The bottom line is: there is no independent review of the 
classification decisions by the Executive Branch.
  With no chance of unbiased review, classification decisions are ready 
and ripe for abuse. Agencies wishing to hide their flaws and 
politicians of both parties wishing to make political points can abuse 
the existing classification guidelines to their advantage. This needs 
to change.
  William Leonard, Director of the Information Security Office, 
acknowledged in a recent speech that the classification system for 
national security has lost touch with the basics; that some agencies 
don't know how much information they classify, or whether they are 
classifying more or less than they once did; whether they are 
classifying too much or too little. He called today's classification 
system ``a patchwork quilt'' that is the result of a hodgepodge of 
laws, regulations and directives. ``In reality,'' he said ``the Federal 
Government has so many varieties of classification that it can make 
Heinz look modest . . .''
  The most recent evidence that the system is broken can be found in 
the forthcoming 9-11 Commission report and last week's Senate 
Intelligence Committee Report on Iraq pre-war intelligence. But the 
problems of declassification also plagued the Joint Inquiry into 
Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist 
Attacks of September 11, 2001, on which Mr. Boswell and I both served. 
All of these reports show the problems that arise from a ``need to 
know'' rather than a ``need to share'' culture of overclassification.
  Even more important than the information that is published in these 
reports is the information withheld from the public and redacted from 
the reports. These reports demonstrate a serious imbalance of power 
between the public and the officials who make the classification 
decisions. They raise troubling questions about whether those who 
control the classification of information for national security 
purposes have misused this authority to shield officials from the glare 
of public accountability and to stifle public debate about politically 
sensitive parts of the war on terrorism.
  This legislation establishes an Independent National Security 
Classification Board. The Board would be made up of three individuals, 
knowledgeable in national security classification, appointed by the 
President with the advice and consent of the Senate.
  The task of the Independent Board would be to review and make 
recommendations on overhauling the standards and process used in the 
classification system for national security information. The Board 
would submit proposed new standards and processes to both Congress and 
the Executive Branch for comment and revision, and then implement the 
new standards and process once they have had the opportunity to 
comment. The Board would then begin to implement the new system, 
reviewing and making recommendations on current and new national 
security classifications, subject to Executive Branch veto that must be 
accompanied by a public, written explanation.
  The balance in this proposal assures that the public and Congress 
have access to an independent Board for national security 
classification matters while leaving undisturbed the Commander in 
Chief's constitutional prerogative in military and foreign policy 
matters through the power to appoint the Board and to veto the Board's 
classification decisions.
  This bill was introduced in the Senate by a bipartisan group of 
Senators and it is our hope that this bill will attract bipartisan 
support in the House. However, with so little time left in the 
legislative session and in recognition of the importance of these 
issues, Mr. Boswell and I, both members of the Permanent Select 
Committee on Intelligence, felt it was important to get this bill into 
the process now. I urge Members to support this bill.