Senators Applaud Intelligence Leader’s Commitment to Declassification Reform

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The senators are trying to focus more resources on artificial intelligence and access-control technologies for agencies to appropriately categorize documents in the digital age.

Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Wash., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., are encouraged by the Biden administration’s response to the huge and growing backlog of government documents that need to be processed so that more of them can be revealed to the public. 

“The failures of the current classification system make our country both more vulnerable and less transparent—it’s a lose-lose proposition,” Wyden said in a press release Wednesday. “I’m pleased that the Biden administration is committed to reforming the classification system and investing in new declassification technology. I’ll continue watching closely to ensure the White House gets it done and ultimately heeds my call to update the executive order governing classification.”  

The executive order, issued back in 2009, looked to address how the internet has changed the items that need to be processed for classification. No longer just static paper documents, such items now come in various forms, including text, chats, numerical data and graphics, which are often stored in the cloud and transmitted by email, officials at the National Archives wrote in 2018.

The order referenced recommendations from the National Archives’ Public Interest Declassification Board on designating staff within agencies to appropriately classify the information and investing in technology to help with the task. 

That could mean more money for artificial intelligence and access control technology, which the administration has also prioritized as part of a zero-trust cybersecurity policy.   

Wyden and Moran sent a letter to the president in May urging the White House to update that executive order and improve the declassification system.

Wednesday’s press release linked to a response the senators received in August from Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

“I am pleased to inform you that the departments and agencies are participating in a White House-led process to address these issues—a process the intelligence community fully supports,” Haines said. “This process will engage all key stakeholders, to include the Congress, advocacy organizations and academic partners to obtain a wide range of viewpoints on the challenges associated with standardizing information management, classification, declassification and the control of sensitive information.”

Haines also included a document in her response indicating a request for increased funding to support the CIA’s “development of new declassification tools.”

The press release also pointed to the senators’ inclusion of amendments to further their declassification campaign in the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2023, which is typically considered in conjunction with the National Defense Authorization Act.