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After WikiLeaks Disclosures, Agencies Told To Review Handling Of Secrets

Nov 29, 2010

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Federal departments and agencies that handle classified information have been told to review their handling of such data as the Obama administration continues to react to WikiLeak.org's latest exposure of things the the government wanted to keep secret.

The Office of Management and Budget has sent a memo across the federal government that says:

"Our national defense requires that sensitive information be maintained in confidence to protect our citizens, our democratic institutions, and our homeland. Protecting information critical to our nation's security is the responsibility of each individual who is granted access to classified information.

"Any unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a violation of our law and compromises our national security. The recent irresponsible disclosure by WikiLeaks has resulted in significant damage to our national security.

"Any failure by agencies to safeguard classified information pursuant to relevant laws, including but not limited to Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information (December 29, 2009), is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

"Please note the following immediate instructions:

"— Each department or agency that handles classified information shall establish a security assessment team consisting of counterintelligence, security, and information assurance experts to review the agency's implementation of procedures for safeguarding classified information against improper disclosures.

"Such review should include (without limitation) evaluation of the agency's configuration of classified government systems to ensure that users do not have broader access than is necessary to do their jobs effectively, as well as implementation of restrictions on usage of, and removable media capabilities from, classified government computer networks.

"— The Office of Management and Budget, the Information Security Oversight Office, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will stand up processes to evaluate, and to assist agencies in their review of, security practices with respect to the protection of classified information."

NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro notes that "after the intelligence failures before the 9/11 attacks, the federal government expanded access to intelligence information across agencies." But, he reports, these latest actions by the Obama administration may reverse that effort because the review teams' jobs "will be to make sure people only have access to the classified information that they need to do their jobs."

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