Mr. CLAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, H.R. 6575, the Over-Classification Reduction Act, addresses the ongoing problem in the Federal [Page: H7887]
Government of over-classification. This bill was introduced by the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, HENRY WAXMAN and TOM DAVIS.
The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, known as the 9/11 Commission, recommended limiting the unnecessary classification of documents and providing incentives for information sharing. Yet as we mark the 7th-year anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, our government still is not sharing important information. Some information must be protected to avoid threatening our national security. But going too far by over-protecting information is also damaging. Over-classification
hurts our efforts to fight terrorism because it prevents agencies from sharing information with relevant stakeholders, including State and local law enforcement and other Federal agencies. It also undermines public access to this important information.
H.R. 6575 calls on the Archivist to promulgate regulations to prevent the over-classification of information. In addition to reducing over-classification, the Archivist would consider what classified information should be prepared in an unclassified format. Agencies would be required to give employees training and the opportunity to challenge classifications, and agency inspectors general would randomly audit classified information to ensure that it is properly marked.
This bill is being considered with an amendment that makes clarifications and addresses concerns raised by the administration and some Members of Congress. For example, the amendment ensures that the bill is consistent with executive order 12958 as well as other existing laws and programs. The amendment also clarifies that the regulations required by the bill be developed in consultation with the heads of affected agencies. It is essential that the Director of National Intelligence play an important
role in developing policies related to the declassification of intelligence information. The Archivist also should consult with relevant agencies such as the Department of Defense regarding information about military operations or the Department of Energy regarding safeguarding nuclear facilities.
This bill takes a government-wide approach to improving information sharing. By doing so it will help strengthen our national security.
I would like to thank Chairman Reyes and Representative Harman for working with the Committee on Oversight on this bill. I urge my colleagues to support this measure.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. AKIN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I agree completely with my friend from St. Louis here, and H.R. 6575 makes a whole lot of sense.
When we face direct threats, it's easy to assume that the best thing to do is to conceal, protect, or hide information, and, in fact, it's probably the worst thing that we can do. That's what the 9/11 Commission decided as it reviewed the American classification process that existed before the 2001 attacks. This is a quotation:
``Current security requirements nurture over-classification and excessive compartmentalization of information among agencies. Each agency's incentive structure opposes sharing, with risks, criminal, civil, and internal administrative sanctions, but few rewards for sharing information. No one has to pay the long-term costs of over-classifying information though these costs, even in literal financial terms, are substantial.''
The result is that the United States for a long time has tried to protect a huge body of secrets using an incomprehensibly complex system of classifications and safeguard requirements. Worst still, this body of secrets is growing and no one can say with any degree of certainty how much information is classified, how much needs to be declassified, or whether the Nation's real secrets can be adequately protected in a system so bloated it often does not distinguish between the critically important
and the merely embarrassing.
Our classification practices have been highly subjective, inconsistent, and susceptible to abuse. Over-classification often confuses national security with bureaucratic, political, or diplomatic convenience.
With this legislation we intend to reduce improper and over-classification and consequently increasing government-wide information sharing and the availability of information to the public. We accomplish this by instructing the Archivist to promulgate regulations which will standardize decisions on the classification documents.
The legislation also establishes systems for challenging whether information ought to be classified and instructs agency IGs to randomly audit classified information to assess whether proper classification decisions are actually being made.
Finally, this legislation creates a record attached to each classified document stating who made the decision to classify. The current system of organizational silos restricts the free flow of information from agency to agency. This system reduces this Nation's overall security by making sure no one gets a view of the entire mosaic. The legislation presents a government-wide solution to protect what must be protected but requires sharing what ought to be shared.
Mr. Speaker, our future safety depends on moving from a ``need to know'' culture to a ``need to share'' culture. This legislation will help us reach that goal. I urge my colleagues to support it.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. CLAY. Mr. Speaker, I would just like to urge my colleagues to vote in favor of H.R. 6575, the Over-Classification Reduction Act, which addresses the ongoing problem in the Federal Government of over-classification. Let me thank again Chairman Waxman as well as Ranking Member Davis for their sponsorship of this bill.