This week, Sen. Ron Wyden voted against advancing the Fiscal Year 2021 Intelligence Authorization Act from the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying the legislation fails to reform a broken, costly declassification system.
Years of official reports have documented how the flood of digital classification has overwhelmed the obsolete declassification system’s ability to keep pace. Wyden and Sen. Jerry Moran have introduced bipartisan legislation to charge the Director of National Intelligence with modernizing declassification, a commonsense reform recommended by the Public Interest Declassification Board.
“The system is choking on itself. The situation is getting worse every day and is completely unsustainable,” Wyden said. “Official reports have estimated that classification costs taxpayers more than $18 billion every year. A dysfunctional system that lets more and more classified records just pile up wastes a significant portion of that amount, while undermining transparency and doing nothing to protect national security.”
Wyden welcomed the passage of whistleblower protection provisions he succeeded in including in the bill, and thanked Vice Chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., for supporting the measures:
- Protecting whistleblowers when the government revokes their security clearance as a reprisal;
- Protecting the Inspector General’s determinations about what whistleblower complaints to submit to Congress from outside interference;
- Prohibiting the public disclosure of whistleblower identities;
- Prohibiting the sharing of whistleblower complaints with the subjects of those complaints; and
- Providing a channel for whistleblowers to come straight to Congress. Wyden noted, however, that unnecessarily restrictive language was added to the provision and urged that it be modified.
Wyden also welcomed the inclusion of a provision requiring a report on the threat posed by the proliferation of commercial spyware.
A web version of this release is here.