July 28, 1998
Dear Mr. Berger:
Information has recently come to our attention regarding the implementation of Executive Order 12958, entitled, "Classified National Security Information," issued on April 17, 1995, which prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information. E.O. 12958 also calls for the automatic declassification by April 17, 2000, of all documents that are 25 years or older and which contain historical information.
The Executive Order specifically states that "nothing in this order shall supersede the Atomic Energy Act of 1954." Yet it has been brought to our attention that, as a result of attempting to comply with E.O. 12958, some Restricted Data and/or Formerly Restricted Data has been improperly released and that much more is in danger of improper release in the near future. As you know, Restricted Data and Formerly Restricted Data, no matter how old, that contains nuclear weapons information could still be highly valuable to proliferant states. Therefore, we are quite concerned to learn that these sensitive documents may have been released to the public or are in danger of such release.
We are equally disturbed to learn that this problem is not unknown to the Department of Energy or to members of your staff. Our information is that the Secretary of Energy was made aware of the declassification problem in December, 1995, and again in January, 1996. National Security Council staff was also briefed in January, 1996. No remedial action was taken as a result of these meetings. In our opinion, this lack of action may be a very serious infraction of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.
We do not contend that the individuals declassifying the information desire to do harm to the national security of the United States. However, it appears that, in a frenzied attempt to meet the deadline mandated by E.O. 12958, officials are not taking proper care to ensure that Restricted Data and Formerly Restricted Data that may be commingled with other classified information is not being improperly released or scheduled for automatic declassification.
It is our opinion that more resources must be given to the Department of Energy to ensure that a proper review of all documents potentially containing Restricted Data and Formerly Restricted Data can be completed.
In the meantime, we would appreciate your questioning your staff as to why these potentially serious breaches of national security were allowed to continue for so long without correction. We would also appreciate your personal attention to this important national security issue.
Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism, and Government Information
Committee on the Judiciary
RICHARD C. SHELBY
Select Committee on Intelligence
Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
Committee on Armed Services