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STATEMENT OF EDMUND COHEN
DIRECTOR OF INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
BEFORE THE SENATE GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
25 MARCH 1998

I WANT TO THANK YOU, MR. CHAIRMAN, FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO TESTIFY HERE TODAY CONCERNING OUR EFFORTS TO IMPROVE OUR RECORDS MANAGEMENT AND DECLASSIFICATION PROGRAMS, PARTICULARLY AS THOSE EFFORTS RELATE TO THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMISSION ON PROTECTING AND REDUCING GOVERNMENT SECRECY.

THE COMMISSION CONCLUDED THAT TOO MUCH IS SECRET AND THAT THIS EXCESSIVE SECRECY HURTS, RATHER THAN PROTECTS, THE NATIONAL SECURITY. IT SUGGESTED THAT LESS SHOULD BE KEPT SECRET, BUT THAT THE CROWN JEWELS SHOULD BE BETTER PROTECTED. WE SUPPORT THE MAJORITY OF THE COMMISSION'S 16 RECOMMENDATIONS. WE BELIEVE THAT MUCH OF WHAT THE COMMISSION SUGGESTS CAN BE ACHIEVED ADMINISTRATIVELY, AND WE HAVE TAKEN STEPS TO DO SO.

DIRECTOR TENET RECENTLY ESTABLISHED AN OFFICE OF INFORMATION MANAGEMENT WITHIN THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY (CIA), IN PART TO ADDRESS SOME OF THE ISSUES RAISED BY THE COMMISSION. THIS NEW OFFICE, WHICH IS REFERRED TO INSIDE THE AGENCY AS OIM, HAS BEEN GIVEN RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE AGENCY'S RECORDS AND CLASSIFICATION MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS AND FOR ALL OF THE AGENCY'S INFORMATION RELEASE PROGRAMS. UNDER DIRECTOR TENET'S INSTRUCTIONS, WE AT OIM HAVE ACTED TO IMPROVE THE STRUCTURE OF RECORDS MANAGEMENT AND SYSTEMATIC DECLASSIFICATION PROGRAMS, AND PROVIDE ENHANCED CLASSIFICATION GUIDANCE, TWO AREAS THAT WERE OF SIGNIFICANT INTEREST TO THE COMMISSION.

CIA AGREES WITH THE COMMISSION THAT THERE IS A DIRECT LINK BETWEEN AGENCY RECORDS MANAGEMENT AND DECLASSIFICATION EFFORTS, AND THAT AN INADEQUATE RECORDS MANAGEMENT SYSTEM IS A MAJOR IMPEDIMENT TO DECLASSIFICATION. THEREFORE, OIM IS FOCUSING ON WAYS TO ENSURE THAT CIA RECORDS ARE CREATED, CLASSIFIED, AND MAINTAINED FROM THE OUTSET SO THAT THEY CAN BE EFFICIENTLY RETRIEVED, DECLASSIFIED, AND SENT TO THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION AND, AS APPROPRIATE, PUBLICLY RELEASED.

OIM ALSO IS MOVING TO ENHANCE THE PROFICIENCY AND RESPONSIBILITY OF AGENCY CLASSIFIERS. WE HAVE REDUCED BY MORE THAN 95% THE NUMBER OF CIA OFFICIALS AUTHORIZED TO PERFORM ORIGINAL CLASSIFICATION (FROM 924 TO 41), AND HAVE PREPARED SPECIAL GUIDANCE FOR THESE OFFICIALS; WE NOW TRAIN ALL NEW CIA EMPLOYEES IN CLASSIFICATION - AND IN RECORDS MANAGEMENT - AND HAVE ANNUAL CLASSIFICATION REFRESHER TRAINING FOR ALL CURRENT CIA EMPLOYEES; WE HAVE REDUCED THE NUMBER OF EXEMPTIONS FOR THE PORTION MARKING OF AGENCY DOCUMENTS; AND WE HAVE COMPLETED A ZERO-BASED REVIEW OF THE CIA CLASSIFICATION GUIDE, AND AS A RESULT OF THAT REVIEW, WE HAVE DRAFTED AND ARE COORDINATING A NEW, EASIER TO USE CLASSIFICATION GUIDE. IN ADDITION, WE HAVE SUPPORTED THE SECURITY POLICY BOARD IN ITS EFFORTS TO CREATE MATERIALS THAT STANDARDIZE TRAINING OF ORIGINAL AND DERIVATIVE CLASSIFIERS ACROSS THE GOVERNMENT.

WE ALSO HAVE TAKEN TO HEART THE COMMISSION'S BELIEF THAT MORE INFORMATION SHOULD BE DECLASSIFIED. THIS IS SQUARELY IN KEEPING WITH DIRECTOR TENET'S COMMITMENT TO THE PUBLIC RELEASE OF INFORMATION, THAT WITH THE PASSAGE OF TIME, NO LONGER NEEDS TO BE PROTECTED UNDER OUR SECURITY CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM.

FOR EXAMPLE, A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF CIA MATERIAL OF HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE ALREADY HAS BEEN DECLASSIFIED:

TOP PRIORITY CONTINUES TO BE GIVEN TO SUPPORT OF THE STATE DEPARTMENT'S FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES SERIES, WHICH CONSTITUTES THE BASIC HISTORICAL RECORD OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY AND WE HAVE REVIEWED OVER 14,000 PAGES FOR THE DEPARTMENT.

TOP PRIORITY ALSO IS BEING GIVEN TO THE REVIEW AND RELEASE OF INFORMATION ON HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN GUATEMALA AND HONDURAS. IN THIS REGARD, WE ARE RESPONDING TO REQUESTS FROM THE GUATEMALA HISTORICAL CLARIFICATION COMMISSION AND THE HONDURAN GOVERNMENT HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER, AND TO HUNDREDS OF FOIA REQUESTS ON THIS SUBJECT. WE ARE DOING EVERYTHING WE CAN TO COMPLETE WORK ON THIS BY THE END OF THE FISCAL YEAR.

WE ALSO ARE REVIEWING FOR RELEASE RECORDS THAT WILL ENABLE THE PUBLIC TO UNDERSTAND THE ROLE OF THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY IN THE SHAPING OF NATIONAL POLICY. THESE RECORDS PERTAIN TO POLICYMAKING AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS, FOR EXAMPLE, NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATES, THE NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DAILY, AND OFFICE FILES OF FORMER DIRECTORS OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE. IN KEEPING WITH NORMAL ARCHIVAL PRACTICE, WE WILL CONSIDER THE EARLIEST RECORDS FIRST. WE ALSO WILL CONSIDER RECORDS WITHIN A COMPLETE SERIES RATHER THAN SELECTING RECORDS THAT PERTAINED TO PARTICULAR TOPICS, TO ALLOW HISTORIANS TO GAIN AS COMPLETE A PICTURE AS POSSIBLE OF A PARTICULAR SITUATION.

IN ADDITION TO THESE PRIORITY ACTIVITIES, THE CIA RECEIVES IN EXCESS OF 6,000 FOIA, PRIVACY ACT, AND EXECUTIVE ORDER MANDATORY DECLASSIFICATION REVIEW REQUESTS EACH YEAR. WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO RESPOND TO OVER 5,000 CASES PER YEAR, BUT THE NEW ELECTRONIC FOIA AMENDMENTS REQUIRE US TO DEVOTE ADDITIONAL DECLASSIFICATION RESOURCES TO REDUCE OUR BACKLOG OR FACE SEVERE COURT IMPOSED PENALTIES. THUS, WE NEED TO INCREASE OUR RESPONSES TO ABOUT 8,000 CASES THIS YEAR. WE ALSO HAVE OPENED AN INTERNET SITE THAT WILL MAKE CIA DECLASSIFIED INFORMATION READILY AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC.

FINALLY, WE HAVE COMPLETED WORK ON AN AUTOMATED PROCESS TO DEAL WITH THE 25-YEAR DECLASSIFICATION PROGRAM MANDATED BY EXECUTIVE ORDER 12958 AND HOPE TO RELEASE 1 MILLION PAGES OF HISTORICALLY VALUABLE (PERMANENT) MATERIAL THIS YEAR. WE PLAN TO REVIEW 5 MILLION PAGES NEXT YEAR AND 8 MILLION PAGES EACH YEAR THEREAFTER.

SOME AGENCIES HAVE ADOPTED A PASS-FAIL STRATEGY IN RESPONSE TO THE 25-YEAR DECLASSIFICATION REQUIREMENT - THAT IS, IF ANYTHING IN A DOCUMENT REQUIRES CONTINUED CLASSIFICATION, THE ENTIRE DOCUMENT IS WITHHELD. THIS IS BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE THAT UNDER PASS-FAIL THEY CAN RELEASE A SUBSTANTIAL MAJORITY OF THEIR MATERIAL. PRELIMINARY REVIEW ON OUR PART INDICATES THAT CIA COULD RELEASE ONLY 15% UNDER A PASS-FAIL APPROACH AND WOULD HAVE TO WITHHOLD 85%. THAT WOULD NOT BE IN THE SPIRIT OF OPENNESS EMBODIED IN THE EXECUTIVE ORDER. WITH LIGHT REDACTION, HOWEVER, WE ESTIMATE THAT WE CAN RELEASE OVER 55% OF OUR MATERIAL - AND PERHAPS SIGNIFICANTLY MORE. THUS, WE HAVE CHOSEN A REDACTION STRATEGY. HOWEVER, THIS STRATEGY IS MORE COSTLY - WE ESTIMATE $2 - $3 PER PAGE IN LABOR COSTS, ALTHOUGH WE EXPECT THAT THE COST CAN BE REDUCED AS WE INCREASE OUR EFFICIENCY.

THERE ARE THOSE WHO QUESTION WHY CIA CANNOT SIMPLY RELEASE INFORMATION THAT IS 25 YEARS OLD OR OLDER. IN FACT, THE ONLY REASONS CIA CAN GENERALLY WITHHOLD 25 YEAR-OLD MATERIAL IS BECAUSE DISCLOSURE WOULD REVEAL THE APPLICATION OF AN INTELLIGENCE METHOD; OR IN CIRCUMSTANCES THAT WOULD CLEARLY AND DEMONSTRABLY DAMAGE THE NATIONAL SECURITY, REVEAL THE IDENTITY OF A HUMAN INTELLIGENCE SOURCE OR IMPAIR RELATIONS WITH A FOREIGN GOVERNMENT. BECAUSE INTELLIGENCE SOURCES AND METHODS ARE INHERENTLY FRAGILE, AND EVEN EXPENSIVE COLLECTION SYSTEMS CAN BE DEFEATED RATHER CHEAPLY, IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT WE AVOID ERRONEOUS RELEASE OF INFORMATION ON INTELLIGENCE ASSETS AND SENSITIVE COLLECTION METHODS.

THE DECLASSIFICATION ACTIVITIES THAT CIA CARRIES OUT ARE ALSO PERFORMED BY THE OTHER INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES, AND WE ARE WORKING TOGETHER TO DEVELOP COMMON TOOLS AND ACHIEVE GREATER EFFICIENCY. INDEED, THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY IS WELL ON ITS WAY TO CREATING ADMINISTRATIVELY THE FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENT OF THE NATIONAL DECLASSIFICATION CENTER PROPOSED BY THE COMMISSION. THE DECLASSIFICATION PROGRAM MANAGERS COUNCIL, WHICH IS UNDER THE COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT STAFF, HAS ALREADY BECOME A FORUM FOR A VARIETY OF INTERAGENCY DECLASSIFICATION ACTIVITIES, INCLUDING INTERAGENCY TRAINING AND COORDINATION CONCERNING DOCUMENTS WITH MULTIPLE AGENCY EQUITIES AND INTERAGENCY COORDINATION ON AUTOMATION TOOLS FOR DECLASSIFICATION REVIEW.

MOST OF THE COMMISSION'S RECOMMENDATIONS CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED ADMINISTRATIVELY, AND MANY ALREADY HAVE. HOWEVER, IN RESPONSE TO REQUESTS FOR LEGISLATIVE DRAFTING SERVICES, WE HAVE PROVIDED REVISED LANGUAGE RELATING TO CIA'S CONCERNS OVER PROVISIONS OF S. 712. I WOULD LIKE TO FOCUS PARTICULARLY ON THREE OF THE ISSUES WE RAISED, AS EXAMPLES OF THE KINDS OF CONCERNS WE HAVE.

THE LEGISLATION WOULD IMPOSE A "FRONT-END" BALANCING TEST THAT WOULD REQUIRE AN INDIVIDUAL WHO CLASSIFIES TO MEASURE AND BALANCE, AT THE TIME OF ANY CLASSIFICATION DECISION, THE BENEFIT FROM PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OF THE INFORMATION PROPOSED FOR CLASSIFICATION AGAINST THE NATIONAL SECURITY NEED FOR THE PROTECTION OF THAT INFORMATION. WHILE WE HAVE CLASSIFICATION GUIDES THAT INSTRUCT WORKING LEVEL PERSONNEL REGARDING JUDGMENTS OF DAMAGE TO NATIONAL SECURITY, IT WOULD BE ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO CONSTRUCT A DISCIPLINED PROCESS TO MAKE REAL TIME JUDGMENTS ON WHAT IS OR IS NOT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST. AND WORKING LEVEL PERSONNEL WOULD NOT NORMALLY HAVE THE NECESSARY BACKGROUND OR EXPERTISE NECESSARY TO MAKE SUCH JUDGMENTS. THIS PROVISION WOULD LIKELY LEAD TO INCONSISTENT, ERRONEOUS, AND IMPROPER CLASSIFICATION DECISIONS WITH LITTLE BENEFIT TO THE PUBLIC, BUT WHICH WOULD JEOPARDIZE SENSITIVE INTELLIGENCE SOURCES AND METHODS. AGAIN, INADVERTENT DISCLOSURE COULD ENDANGER HUMAN SOURCES, OR LEAD TO THE COMPROMISE OF A COSTLY OR IRREPLACEABLE INTELLIGENCE METHOD. INSTEAD, WE SUPPORT THE CURRENT PRACTICE OF A "BACK-END" BALANCING TEST THAT APPLIES TO INFORMATION ALREADY CLASSIFIED, WHICH CAN ONLY BE PERFORMED BY SENIOR OFFICIALS WITH THE PERSPECTIVE TO MAKE SUCH DECISIONS.

SECOND, WE BELIEVE THE CONCEPT THAT WE CALL THE THIRD AGENCY RULE MUST BE PRESERVED. THIS CONCEPT PROVIDES THAT CLASSIFIED INFORMATION MAY NOT BE DECLASSIFIED BY ANY AGENCY WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE AGENCY THAT ORIGINATED THE INFORMATION. THIS IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT IS THE ORIGINATORS OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION WHO HAVE THE NECESSARY UNDERSTANDING AND EXPERTISE TO MAKE INFORMED AND CONTEXTUALLY SENSIBLE DECISIONS REGARDING THE SENSITIVITY OF THE INFORMATION. IN THE CIA CONTEXT, WE HAVE FOUND THAT INNOCUOUS INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION CAN OFTEN LOOK SENSITIVE TO A NON-EXPERT, WHILE TRULY SENSITIVE INFORMATION CAN APPEAR INNOCUOUS. ACCORDINGLY, WE BELIEVE THAT REMOVING THE ORIGINATOR FROM THE DECLASSIFICATION PROCESS WOULD LIKELY RESULT IN IMPROPER DECLASSIFICATION DECISIONS, IN GENERAL, AND CONFLICT WITH THE STATUTORY OBLIGATION OF THE DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE (DCI) TO PROTECT INTELLIGENCE SOURCES AND METHODS, IN PARTICULAR. BUT MOST IMPORTANT, THE CONSEQUENCES TO OUR INTELLIGENCE CAPABILITIES OF A MISTAKE IN THE DECLASSIFICATION PROCESS CAN BE SIGNIFICANT AND IRREVERSIBLE.

THIRD, WE ARE CONCERNED THAT THE LEGISLATION FAILS TO LIMIT JUDICIAL REVIEW, IN MATTERS THAT, BY THEIR NATURE, REQUIRE EXPERTISE UNIQUELY IN THE HANDS OF INTELLIGENCE PROFESSIONALS CHARGED WITH PROTECTING THE NATIONAL SECURITY. WITHOUT LIMITS ON JUDICIAL REVIEW, THE LEGISLATION WOULD SERVE TO ENCOURAGE LITIGATION AND JUDICIAL SECOND-GUESSING OF DCI DECISIONS AND ACTIONS, IN AN AREA THAT HAS, PRACTICALLY AND HISTORICALLY, REQUIRED FLEXIBILITY AND ADMINISTRATIVE DISCRETION. INDEED, THE COURTS THEMSELVES HAVE RECOGNIZED THAT THEY LACK THE EXPERTISE TO MAKE THESE DECISIONS.

ADDITIONALLY, WE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE REQUIREMENT TO PUBLISH IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER THE STANDARDS AND PROCEDURES FOR CLASSIFYING INFORMATION BY THIS AGENCY. IF THESE STANDARDS ARE WRITTEN IN SUCH A WAY AS TO BE UNCLASSIFIED, THEY ARE OF LIMITED USE TO CIA EMPLOYEES, IF THEY ARE SET FORTH IN MORE SPECIFIC DETAIL, THEY NEED TO BE CLASSIFIED. WE ALSO ARE CONCERNED ABOUT PROPOSED NEW DECLASSIFICATION STANDARDS FOR 10 AND 30 YEAR- OLD DOCUMENTS REQUIRING, AMONG OTHER THINGS, ACTION BY THE AGENCY HEAD AND THE PRESIDENT, ON A DOCUMENT-BY-DOCUMENT BASIS, TO PROTECT INFORMATION BEYOND 10 AND 30 YEARS. THESE STANDARDS WOULD RESULT IN THE FUTILE, COSTLY, AND TIME-CONSUMING DOCUMENT-BY-DOCUMENT REVIEW BY AGENCY HEADS AND THE PRESIDENT OF LARGE NUMBERS OF DOCUMENTS CONTAINING SIMILAR TYPES OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION LIKELY REQUIRING CONTINUED PROTECTION.

WE SUPPORT A NATIONAL DECLASSIFICATION CENTER THAT WOULD ASSIST WITH INTERAGENCY COORDINATION OF THE DECLASSIFICATION OF DOCUMENTS WITH MULTIPLE AGENCY EQUITIES, DEVELOP STANDARD AUTOMATION TOOLS FOR DECLASSIFICATION REVIEW WITHIN THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH, AND SERVE AS THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH FOCAL POINT FOR REQUESTING FUNDS TO SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT'S SYSTEMATIC AND AUTOMATIC DECLASSIFICATION ACTIVITIES. BUT WE DO NOT SUPPORT IT HAVING A POLICY OR OVERSIGHT ROLE, OR THE AUTHORITY TO UNILATERALLY DECLASSIFY ANY INFORMATION WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE ORIGINATING AGENCY. AND FINALLY, WE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT SECTION 4(F) THAT WOULD AMEND THE FOIA TO PRECLUDE THE PRESIDENT FROM ISSUING OR USING ANY EXECUTIVE ORDER THAT UTILIZES NONSTATUTORY CLASSIFICATION CRITERIA TO PROTECT SPECIAL CATEGORIES OF INFORMATION FROM RELEASE UNDER THE FOIA. THIS AMENDMENT WOULD SIGNIFICANTLY IMPAIR THE ABILITY OF THE DCI TO CONTINUE TO PROTECT IMAGERY, WHICH, BECAUSE OF ITS UNIQUE NATURE, WAS GIVEN SPECIAL PROTECTION UNDER EXECUTIVE ORDER 12951, AND WOULD PREVENT THE DCI FROM EVER OBTAINING FROM THE PRESIDENT SIMILAR SPECIAL TREATMENT FOR ANY OTHER CATEGORY OF INTELLIGENCE DESERVING SPECIAL PROTECTION. WE HAVE BEEN ADVISED THAT THE ADMINISTRATION WILL BE OFFICIALLY CORRESPONDING DIRECTLY WITH THE COMMITTEE ON ITS VIEWS ABOUT S. 712 IN THE NEAR FUTURE. AND WE UNDERSTAND THAT THE LETTER WILL PROPOSE REVISIONS REQUIRED TO ENABLE THE ADMINISTRATION TO SUPPORT THE BILL.

BEYOND THE SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES RAISED BY THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION, WE MUST BE CONSCIOUS OF THE ASSOCIATED COSTS AS WE WORK TOWARD A NEW APPROACH TO THE DECLASSIFICATION OF INFORMATION. THE 25-YEAR DECLASSIFICATION PROGRAM, THE GROWING NUMBER OF FOIA REQUESTS (AND THEY ARE GROWING BOTH IN NUMBER AND COMPLEXITY), THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE ELECTRONIC FOIA AMENDMENTS, SPECIAL SEARCHES SUCH AS THOSE CONCERNING THE GULF WAR ILLNESS INVESTIGATION AND GUATEMALA HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, AS WELL AS LITIGATION AND DECLASSIFICATION APPEALS ALL TAKE SCARCE RESOURCES AWAY FROM MISSION. IT IS IMPORTANT, THEREFORE, THAT WE TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE ADDITIONAL COSTS THAT WOULD BE INCURRED AS A RESULT OF ANY NEW LEGISLATION THAT WILL FURTHER IMPACT THE INTELLIGENCE MISSION.

AGAIN, I WANT TO THANK YOU, MR. CHAIRMAN, FOR THE OPPORTUNITY THAT I HAVE BEEN GIVEN TODAY TO DISCUSS WITH YOU AND YOUR COMMITTEE WHAT WE ARE DOING TO IMPLEMENT THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMISSION ON PROTECTING AND REDUCING GOVERNMENT SECRECY. I WOULD LIKE TO REPEAT OUR INTEREST IN CONTINUING TO WORK WITH CONGRESSIONAL STAFFS ON LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES TO FURTHER THE OBJECTIVES SET FORTH BY THE COMMISSION WITHOUT DAMAGING INTELLIGENCE EQUITIES. I WOULD BE HAPPY TO TAKE ANY QUESTIONS THAT YOU MAY HAVE.




Hearing on the Government Secrecy Act of 1997, March 25, 1998

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