Two More Obstacles To Intelligence Reform

Published on National Security Program, by Melvin Goodman, of The Public Record, September 10, 2009.

The appointment of former Central Intelligence Agency director Michael Hayden to the Public Interest Declassification Board(PIDB) and former senator Warren Rudman to the CIA’s External Advisory Board (EAB) will ensure less openness in the intelligence community and more obduracy in the CIA.

The late senator Daniel P. Moynihan created the PIDB in the 1990s to reduce the “torment of secrecy,” which denied important information on national security to the American people. The EAB was designed to deal with the complexities of managing the CIA and to improve the access of intelligence information to the Congress and the American people. Hayden and Rudman have a cold war preoccupation with secrecy and have never been known for improving access. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, is responsible for the Hayden appointment; CIA director Leon Panetta appointed Rudman … 

… One of the greatest unknown scandals within the intelligence community is the over-classification of government documents in order to keep important information out of the hands of the American people. It costs billions of dollars for government and industry to classify documents, with several million individuals in the government and private industry having the right to classify information.

Government vaults hold over 1.5 billion pages of classified information that are more than twenty-five years old and, thus, unavailable to scholars and researchers, let along the general public. Documents are typically classified to hide embarrassing political information, not secrets. Greater respect for openness might have prevented the policies that led to the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, the CIA’s network of secret prisons, and the CIA’s detentions and interrogations programs. (full text).

(Melvin A. Goodman, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and adjunct professor of government at Johns Hopkins University, is The Public Record’s National Security and Intelligence columnist. He spent 42 years with the CIA, the National War College, and the U.S. Army. His latest book is Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA).

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