Authority to determine classification levels was one of the many issues raised by Hillary Clinton's email controversy.

Authority to determine classification levels was one of the many issues raised by Hillary Clinton's email controversy. Kevin Lamarque/AP file photo

State Department Has a Ways to Go to Achieve Proper Classification of Documents

Inspector general faults training, outdated lists of officials with authority to determine secrecy levels.

One of the many issues raised by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email controversy is who within the State Department determines the classification level of key and routine documents.

According to an inspector general’s report issued late last month, the department has fallen short in updating its list of officials with classification authority, has not delivered all mandatory training to staff handling the documents, and has provided inaccurate counts of the number of formerly classified documents now declassified.

Documents generated within the Office of the Secretary were not included in the department’s own report to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Information Security Oversight Office.

“Of the 239 individuals who occupied positions that OIG had identified as Top Secret-level [original classification authorities], 41 (17 percent) had completed” the training course in classification in the past 12 months, said the report, a follow-up on a 2013 report on compliance with President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order 13526 prescribing a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding and declassifying national security information.

Of 671 individuals identified as Secret-level original classification authorities, only 172 (26 percent) had completed the course, according to records from the Foreign Service Institute. Among officials in the most senior-level positions, none had taken the course since its creation in 2011, the watchdog found.

State’s Bureau of Administration, the report noted, had not updated its list of officials authorized to make Top Secret and Secret-level classifications in six years. “In addition, the department had not implemented the sanction provision in the Executive Order that suspends an individual’s classification authority until training is completed,” the report continued. 

“These conditions occurred in part because the Bureau of Administration had not provided adequate guidance to the department’s bureaus specifying how the process for suspending classification authority should work,” the report said. “When department employees and contractors are unaware of classification standards and no mechanism is in place to enforce training requirements, there is an increased risk that information could be incorrectly marked, misclassified, and/or improperly restricted or disseminated.”

Also because of such deficiencies, the IG wrote, “the Bureau of Administration will remain unable to identify a complete universe of classified documents within the department for the annual self-inspection until additional capabilities are instituted.”

Acknowledging that a lack of resources plays a role in the training shortfalls, the IG updated past recommendations—noting progress on many.

Seven new recommendations include improved monitoring of training and more-precise reporting from components on document classification, clarification of which contractors must take classification training, improved software installation procedures and conducting a workload assessment.

State’s bureaus agreed.

The report’s finding of inaccuracies in the number of declassified State documents leapt out at Steven Aftergood, who writes the Secrecy News blog for the Federation of American Scientists. In applauding the government’s efforts at declassification under the 2010 Reducing Over-Classification Act, he quoted William Cira, acting director of the National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office, as saying the inaccuracies do not worry him.

 “It has been recognized, even long before we asked the agencies to include the electronic environment, that an actual count is not feasible,” Cira said. “The sampling and extrapolation technique described in that report has been in widespread use for a long time.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.