America’s most senior intelligence officer says its classification system is broken

Avril HainesTHE MOST SENIOR INTELLIGENCE officer in the United States has said in a letter that the nation’s system of classification is flawed and undermines its national security. This view was expressed by Avril Haines, who heads the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the body that directs and coordinates America’s 18 intelligence agencies. Haines, 52, was appointed to the position last year by President Joe Biden, and is seen as a potential reformist of the US intelligence community.

Haines stated her view on classification in a letter sent to two Senators, Jerry Moran (R., Kan.) and Ron Wyden (D., Ore.). The letter was in response to a formal query submitted by the two members of Congress. The query concerns the mounting backlog of classified information that is currently awaiting declassification on historical or ‘right-to-know’ legal processes. The latter require government agencies to release information to the public domain.

Some of the contents of Haines’ letter, marked “for official use only”, were reported on Thursday by The Wall Street Journal. According to the paper, Haines opined that “deficiencies in the current classification system undermine our national security, as well as critical democratic objectives, by impeding our ability to share information in a timely manner”. This affects the work of policy makers, the public’s perception of the American system of government, and the nation’s ability to share critical information with its allies, said Haines.

What is more, ongoing efforts to limit the “exponential growth” of classified information in government vaults “are simply not sufficient”. This is “a fundamentally important issue that we must address”, said Haines. In an essay she authored shortly before becoming Director of National Intelligence, Haines had criticized the government’s tendency to overclassify information, claiming that “it actually encourages leaking”. In response to Haines’ letter, Senators Moran and Wyden issued a statement saying the DNI “clearly recognizes that the current broken classification system harms US national security while eroding the public’s trust in government”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 January 2022 | Permalink

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