Monday September 5, 2022
Let’s commit a potential crime by reading this: “Every day the Iraqis turn out military communiques threatening ‘severe punishment’ against Iran.” That line is classified, albeit from 1988. It was put into the public sphere via Wikileaks but never officially declassified. Technically it remains classified even though it is a click away for anybody with internet access.
It illustrates that if there are three things most everyone in government agrees on a) there are too many classified documents classified too highly, b) no one is going to risk their neck to be the first to start classifying less and c) handling all that classified is a major problem for even those trying to do the right thing.
As former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden said, “Everything’s secret. I mean, I got an email saying ‘Merry Christmas.’ It carried a top secret NSA classification marking.”
In 2010 Congress passed the Reducing Over-Classification Act, which mandated several steps to improve classification practices. But in a minor act of legislative malpractice, Congress failed to define the meaning of the term “overclassification.” So it is not entirely clear what the Act was supposed to reduce.