I never realized that when it comes to classified information it’s not just “top secret” “secret” and “confidential” – based on a recent assessment from the Pentagon press pool there’s also “classified-classified” and “B.S. classified.”
The topic came up in a recent Pentagon press briefing with Bloomberg reporter Tony Capaccio questioning Pentagon spokesman George Little regarding an anti-leak memorandum released by the Pentagon last week. Cappacio noted that the idea of classification had become “a joke” and asked what defense officials were going to do to distinguish “classified-classified versus B.S. classified” – as he put it.
It’s the same debate on overclassification, different scenario. With congress hotly debating the repercussions for leaks in the wake of some widespread and high-profile breaches – and putting the press on the hot seat for publishing classified information – those on the other side of the argument continue to cry “overclassification” not “leak.”
Reporters aren’t the first to charge the government with overclassification. The FAS Project on Government Secrecy has been accusing the government of overclassifying information for years. Members of congress and the Government Accountability Office have also argued that overclassification is a drain on the system, reduces transparency and costs millions of taxpayer dollars each year.
It’s a tough argument in the era of Wikileaks. Some are urging that classification reform would actually reduce the instance of breaches, with less information to steal, clearer protocols, and more transparency. Others argue that the risks demand more caution before releasing even potentially sensitive materials.
Congress has shifted focus from overclassification to leaks, with 12 provisions in the 2013 Intelligence Authorization bill related to unauthorized disclosures of classified information. The provisions are largely procedural changes and clarifications on what cleared personnel can and can’t do. None get at what is considered the heart of the issue for many – offering clearer protocols for the declassification of information and reducing the amount of classified information – “B.S.” or otherwise.