WASHINGTON (CN) – President Obama has established a uniform, government-wide program for managing information that is withheld from the public but does not rise to the category of classified, to replace the ad-hoc designations used by individual agencies.
The information will be formally titled Controlled Unclassified Information, (CUI) and includes data such as social security numbers and personal addresses. In 2006, the National Security Archive, an anti-government secrecy organization, audited the handling of sensitive unclassified information finding that there was no government wide “monitoring of or reporting on the use of or impact of protective sensitive unclassified markings. Nor was a there a procedure for the public to challenge protective markings.”
The audit also found that of the 37 federal agencies whose classification policies it reviewed, only eight had classification procedures authorized by statute or regulation, while the rest relied on policies developed internally or adopted from other agencies. At the Department of Homeland Security, any of its more than 180,000 employees could designate unclassified information as sensitive.
In 2008, former President George W. Bush ordered federal agencies to develop guidelines for a CUI designation, but that order did not create a centralized standard for applying the designation. It also did not replace the patchwork of designations used by each agency. President Obama’s order rescinds the Bush era policy.
The executive order establishing the new CUI program orders the National Archives and Records Administrator, with the heads of all executive agencies, to develop new standards for safeguarding and disseminating sensitive information with specific reference to the particular law, regulation or government wide policy that requires control of the information.
The order also eliminates all currently used designations for sensitive unclassified information in favor of the CUI designation, and requires the heads of all federal agencies to review current designations and categorize them under the new system once it is adopted.