FAS | Gov't Secrecy | 3/25/98 Hearing || Index | Search |


STATEMENT OF A. BRYAN SIEBERT
DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF DECLASSIFICATION
OFFICE OF NONPROLIFERATION AND NATIONAL SECURITY
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
BEFORE THE
COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
U.S. SENATE

MARCH 25, 1998

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before your Committee today to share with you some thoughts as to what has worked and what has not worked in our statute-based classification and declassification program. I speak today at the Committee's request as a senior career executive about my Office's experiences and offer them to the committee as they consider S. 712. Our classification program is over fifty years old and I have served as the Director of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Declassification since only 1988. I will do my best to represent a program that was born with the Atomic Energy Commission, progressed through the Energy Research and Development Administration, and has now matured in the DOE.

But first, I would like to say that we at DOE have supported from the beginning the goals of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy. We noted the diversity of membership, and we commend all those on that Commission and on this Committee who have worked so hard to bring these important but often-overlooked issues to the forefront. As President Clinton stated on October 4, 1993, ". . . it is a fundamental principle that an informed . citizenry is essential to the democratic process and that the more the American people know about our government the better they will be governed...." Any government controls on information must be applied to the minimum extent possible, while at all times ensuring that the United States meets its obligations to protect the national security and fulfills its commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Even though the threat from our traditional adversaries has lessened, the less focused threat of nuclear proliferation has, if anything, increased in the post-Cold-War era.

What makes our program different from any other classification program in the Government is the Atomic Energy Act. In 1946, Congress recognized the unprecedented destructive power of nuclear weapons and passed the Atomic Energy Act. This Act created a new kind of classified information called Restricted Data (RD). This new kind of classification covered nuclear weapons; the production of fissionable material used in such weapons, such as uranium and plutonium; and the use of fissionable material to produce energy, as in nuclear reactors. In 1954, the Atomic Energy Act was amended to create a special subset of RD that while still classified is called Formerly Restricted Data (FRD). This information concerns the military utilization of nuclear weapons and was created to make it easier for the Department of Defense to handle and protect nuclear weapons in its custody.

What do we think has been critical to the success of our program? Here are identified a few points that clearly have been important.

The Atomic Energy Act has provided us with consistent principles and clear overall policy for over 50 years while allowing us wide latitude in implementation. The Atomic Energy Act has provided long-term stability and within DOE has resulted in an excellent understanding of the ramifications of each part of the Act. Finally, the Atomic Energy Act clearly specifies classification and declassification responsibilities and authorities. DOE has principal responsibility for RD classification and declassification and shares these responsibilities in well-defined ways with the DOD. This clear delineation of responsibility minimizes the chance of inter-agency issues and misunderstandings.

It is DOE's experience that the public can and must participate in the implementation of the classification and declassification program. DOE has just issued its first Federal regulation establishing detailed policies and procedures for the classification and declassification of DOE information. The impetus for this regulation came from the public, and it is designed to control and limit the Government, not the public. It contains many concepts that were recommended by the public, such as specifying detailed criteria that must be met before information can be classified. These criteria consider both the public's right to know and the requirements of national security. The regulation also requires the establishment of the Openness Advisory Panel, a standing committee of the Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board. It is made up of distinguished, interested citizens from outside of Government who are empowered to look to all aspects of DOE classification and declassification programs.

We have now systematically determined what information should be classified and what should not be. Secretary Peņa recently announced completion of the Fundamental Classification Policy Review, the first such comprehensive analysis of all DOE classified information since World War II. This review was done to insure that only the absolute minimum amount of DOE information that warrants classification is still classified. This massive 2-year effort by the best technical experts in DOE, its national laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and Los Alamos National Laboratory; and other agencies, such as the Department of Defense, Department of State, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, is resulting in the declassification of information the public has a right and need to know. In addition, the public's views and opinions were also actively sought at every stage of this review.

Classification guides have been developed which accurately and completely describe which information is classified and which is not. DOE has historically relied on classification guides, which are updated on a continuing basis and whose use are required before decisions are made. We have found that this is the only way to ensure consistent classification and declassification decisions throughout the DOE community. Without guides, a classifier is often unsure if something is classified, so the classifier usually ends up classifying it just to be safe. This often results in overclassification, extra security costs, and incorrectly denying the public access to information about their Government that is not sensitive.

Classifiers must use classification guides. The mere existence of guides is not enough. The classification staff must use these guides for virtually all their classification decisions. To ensure that only information that should be classified is classified, DOE staff base virtually every one of their classification decisions on classification guides. We are proud that we have greatly facilitated this process by reducing our guides to a CD-ROM format.

A network of professional career Classification Officers specifically dedicated to the task of classification and declassification is at every DOE operations office and major contractor facility performing classified activities. The success of the Department's program is directly linked to this network. This has proven to be a very effective mechanism to implement DOE policy and guidance throughout the complex and to keep the communications lines open to our internal and external customers.

Classifiers and declassifiers must be well trained. DOE is recognized as having the strongest and most comprehensive classifier and declassifier training program in the Federal Government. All DOE classifiers and declassifiers not only receive training tailored to their individual needs, but they must pass rigorous examinations when initially appointed and also every 3 years or they lose their authority to classify and declassify.

We must make the document review process much more efficient. The declassification challenge is much larger than the resources available to meet it. Armies of reviewers would be necessary to declassify the mountains of classified documents that the Government has accumulated over the years. Such reviewer armies will never exist. Automation is the only way to increase the efficiency of the limited number of reviewers available. It will do this by automatically identifying potentially classified information. Reviewers will then be able to focus their efforts on these sections and not be diverted reviewing the sections that are unlikely to be classified. The DOE has the Declassification Productivity Initiative underway to try to develop advanced equipment and software to automatically assist the review process. This automation initiative, if successful, should reduce the cost of document reviews, speed up delivery to our customers, and better protect the national security.

While the Atomic Energy Act has served us well over the last decades, it is not the perfect model for a Government-wide classification and declassification program.

Having a statute-based classification system has not allowed for easier prosecution of compromises of information classified under the Atomic Energy Act. It has been my experience as Director of Declassification that it has been very difficult to prosecute cases involving the compromise of RD or FRD. Before prosecution can be initiated, a large number of criteria must be met. Most of these criteria are reasonably easy to meet. However, a few are so difficult that we have been unable to meet them, thereby effectively precluding prosecution.

The Atomic Energy Act is tailored to the classification and declassification of a very specialized kind of information. RD and FRD are based on a single, short definition in the Atomic Energy Act. This definition describes highly complex, technical information in a relatively narrow subject area. Although DOE is challenged constantly to refine and clarify what is classified within this definition, the variety and complexity of subject matter in the rest of the Government far exceeds that of RD and FRD.

That concludes my prepared statement, and I would again like to thank you for this opportunity to share our experiences at DOE with your Committee. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.




FAS | Gov't Secrecy | 3/25/98 Hearing || Index | Search |