• Over-Classification at State

    November 6, 2013

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State

    Over-classification in our government is real.

    Designed primarily to hide the actions of the peoples’ government from the people, federal agencies now routinely slap a classified label on just about everything; the Department of Defense recently classified a memo about over-classification. Obama even signed (albeit with his fingers crossed behind his back) the Reducing Over-Classification Act, which required various parts of the federal government to (you guessed it) reduce over-classification. As part of implementing this law, federal inspectors general are supposed to “evaluate” the classification policies of the organizations.

    As a public service to inspectors general, may I suggest you take a look over at the State Department?

    State, which about a year ago sought to fire me, in part, for “revealing” a document that was labeled Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU), snail-mailed me an SBU document. That document was a form letter, appropriately classified because, why not? Let’s be a touch civilly disobedient and have a look at it:



    Like most of you (“the internet”) I have no security clearance. I am pretty sure my mail carrier does not have a security clearance, nor does the youngster at my home who first opened the mail yet there, all pink and naked, lies an actual SBU document. Now of course it is a form letter about income taxes with a rubber stamp signature, but dammit, don’t your eyes burn? Now look away! FYI, my financial information, included in the envelope, did not carry any classification. The youngster has been appropriately punished.

    Of course the whole concept of “Sensitive But Unclassified/SBU” is a bit of a joke; technically no such category of actual US Government classification actually exists. The State Department and others just sort of made up “SBU” after 9/11 in an attempt to include basically every document and email created inside Foggy Bottom in some sort of restricted category. In a report prepared by the Library of Congress, the authors wrote “Although there is growing concern in the post 9/11 world that guidelines for the protection of SBU are needed, a uniform legal definition or set of procedures applicable to all Federal government agencies does not now exist. Regulations are reported to be under development in the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Homeland Security.”

    State itself self-defines SBU as “information which warrants a degree of protection and administrative control that meets the criteria for exemption from public disclosure.”

    So all you inspectors general out there, can you tell we people out here exactly what in the State Department’s form letter about taxes “warrants a degree of protection and administrative control that meets the criteria for exemption from public disclosure”? ‘Cause if you can’t find anything, then maybe State is just a little bit heavy-handed with its classification policies.

    At least I hope so. Otherwise, somebody at State just sorta leaked an SBU document into the mail system. OH NO!


    BONUS: It is apparently of no interest to law enforcement when someone high up in the State Department leaks an actual Secret document to the media, at least when said leak was designed to benefit the Department.


    BONUS BONUS: Since State willfully sent a classified document to me, knowing I have this blog, were they hoping I’d expose it here? Is the State Department whistleblowing on itself in some odd national security act of autoeroticism?



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  • Recent Comments

    • pitchfork said...

      1

      quote:”Now of course it is a form letter about income taxes with a rubber stamp signature, but dammit, don’t your eyes burn? Now look away!

      Now you tell me. Great. As if I didn’t have enough problems. Now you’ve put me on a “classified” list of people who’ve read classified information who don’t have a security clearance. Thank you Peter.(insert rolly eyes here with a wink)

      quote:”Over-classification in our government is real.”unquote

      Cool. I’ll inform the .00001% of the planet who’ve never heard of Wikileaks..or Chelsea. Or the term “classified” for that matter. :)

      Kidding aside..quote:”federal agencies now routinely slap a classified label on just about everything; the Department of Defense recently classified a memo about over-classification.”unquote

      Holy mother of ROTFIGSL..whudda thunk?

      Speaking of Comics-R-Us…
      quote:”Of course the whole concept of “Sensitive But Unclassified/SBU” is a bit of a joke; technically no such category of actual US Government classification actually exists.”unquote

      But Unclassified? Wait..wait.. So..does that mean I don’t have to worry about being tortured now?

      quote: “The State Department and others just sort of made up “SBU”…..”unquote

      Just “sort of” made SBU up. Naw. Really? Shades of WMD. I’m flabbergasted.

      not.

      On the other hand, I just notified some people that State has commandeered their trademark.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dev5NYzjRvk

      Maybe now those classification freaks at State will re-brand it’s “not really classified but we want you to think you’re in deep shit if you leak it” bullshit into something like..oh..I don’t know…how bout..

      “BRS”??? Yeah. Perfect.

      BULLSHIT-R-US

      Not to be confused with

      http://www.brslabs.com/

      ..of course. On the other hand…

      11/6/13 3:47 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      2

      ps, geeeezushfuckingchrist..if the USG keeps this shit up I’m gonna hafta get an injunction for KMS.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KpeCk6NyZU

      11/6/13 3:58 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      3

      ps2..I don’t know how you do it Peter. I’d be dead from laughter by now.

      11/6/13 3:59 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      4

      ok, I read the article you linked to Peter.

      Turns out, I learned something. As far as I can tell, which I never thought about, is how the term “classified” can be construed. For instance..

      “Classified” as a verb. As in..”This document has been classified” In regards to the “report” being “classified”..yes..it WAS “classified”. What that doesn’t tell you is..it was “classified” as “FOUO”..or For Official Use Only.

      Had it been “classified” AS…Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret, then I think those classifications are what most people think of as a noun…ie..they are “classified”. Here is how one commenter put it…

      quote:”FOUO is not a classification in the same category as Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret. Those markings indicate that the information contained therein is a matter of national security. That’s what people are talking about when the term “overclassification” is thrown about.

      So, no, this isn’t a case of overclassification. It’s not even really a case of being overly sensitive. In Mike’s defense, half the government thinks FOUO is a meaningful classification, too.”

      Actually, the comments on that site are quite interesting.

      11/6/13 10:32 PM | Comment Link

    • Lisa said...

      5

      Off-topic, Peter, but congrats on a very fine piece 11/4 @ TomDispatch, “John Kerry Is Lost in Space”.

      11/7/13 5:06 AM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      6

      Thanks Lisa. I’ll be rerunning it here soon in case anyone missed it.

      11/7/13 11:51 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      7

      Too late. State just “classified” PVB’s LOST article.

      11/7/13 12:26 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      8

      11/7/13 2:57 PM | Comment Link

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