Obama Announces New Classified Information Safeguards

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2011 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma issued an exec­u­tive order today that strength­ens the government’s infor­ma­tion and com­put­er secu­ri­ty poli­cies and prac­tices to pre­vent breach­es such as the 2010 Wik­iLeaks episode.

The order fol­lows an inter­a­gency com­mit­tee review of exist­ing poli­cies and prac­tices fol­low­ing Wik­iLeaks’ unlaw­ful dis­clo­sure of clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion last sum­mer, White House offi­cials said. 

The WikiLeaks.org group post­ed more than 90,000 doc­u­ments, many of which detailed clas­si­fied and sen­si­tive field reports regard­ing mil­i­tary operations. 

Obama’s exec­u­tive order cites efforts already tak­en to reduce the risk of future secu­ri­ty breach­es while pro­vid­ing a frame­work for enhanc­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty through respon­si­ble shar­ing and safe­guard­ing of clas­si­fied information. 

“The strate­gic imper­a­tive of our efforts has been to ensure that we pro­vide ade­quate pro­tec­tions to our clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion while at the same time shar­ing the infor­ma­tion with all who rea­son­ably need it to do their jobs,” offi­cials said. 

The empha­sis, they explained, is on bal­anc­ing the require­ments of respon­si­ble infor­ma­tion shar­ing with safe­guard­ing imper­a­tives, while ensur­ing con­sis­ten­cy across gov­ern­ment and respect­ing the Amer­i­can people’s pri­va­cy, civ­il rights and civ­il liberties. 

The exec­u­tive order assigns agen­cies the pri­ma­ry respon­si­bil­i­ty for shar­ing and safe­guard­ing clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion, con­sis­tent with appro­pri­ate pro­tec­tions for pri­va­cy and civ­il liberties. 

Fed­er­al agen­cies that use clas­si­fied net­works are required to: 

— Des­ig­nate a senior offi­cial to over­see the agency’s clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion shar­ing and safeguarding; 

— Imple­ment a pro­gram to detect and pre­vent insid­er threats; and 

— Con­duct self-assess­ments of pol­i­cy and stan­dard compliance. 

The exec­u­tive order estab­lish­es sev­er­al new bod­ies to devel­op, over­see and enforce these new secu­ri­ty reforms. 

A senior infor­ma­tion shar­ing and safe­guard­ing steer­ing com­mit­tee for­mal­ly estab­lished today will coor­di­nate inter­a­gency efforts and ensure that the fed­er­al depart­ments and agen­cies are held account­able. In addi­tion, a new clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion shar­ing and safe­guard­ing office will pro­vide a sus­tained, full-time focus on shar­ing and safe­guard­ing clas­si­fied nation­al secu­ri­ty infor­ma­tion. The office also will help to ensure con­sis­tent poli­cies and stan­dards and strive to iden­ti­fy the next poten­tial problem. 

Mean­while, senior rep­re­sen­ta­tives both at the Defense Depart­ment and Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency will act togeth­er as the exec­u­tive agent for safe­guard­ing clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion on com­put­er net­works. As part of this joint mis­sion, they will devel­op tech­ni­cal safe­guard­ing polices and stan­dards and assess compliance. 

Also, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Eric H. Hold­er Jr. and Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence James R. Clap­per Jr. are form­ing a task force to devel­op a pro­gram to detect and pre­vent insid­er threats and reduce poten­tial vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties through­out the gov­ern­ment that will inte­grate spe­cial­ized abil­i­ties, tools and tech­niques to deter, detect and dis­rupt the insid­er threat, offi­cials said. 

White House offi­cials not­ed mea­sures already tak­en with­in the Defense Depart­ment and oth­er fed­er­al agen­cies to safe­guard clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion and networks. 

All have made sig­nif­i­cant progress in clar­i­fy­ing and stan­dard­iz­ing polices, process­es and tech­ni­cal con­trols regard­ing remov­able media, offi­cials said, lim­it­ing the num­bers of users with remov­able media per­mis­sions and strength­en­ing account­abil­i­ty for violations. 

In addi­tion, own­ers and oper­a­tors of clas­si­fied sys­tems con­tin­ue to strength­en ver­i­fi­ca­tion pro­ce­dures to log on to clas­si­fied sys­tems and the track­ing of what infor­ma­tion users access, offi­cials added, not­ing that more robust access con­trol sys­tems are being imple­ment­ed to ensure indi­vid­ual users’ infor­ma­tion access is com­men­su­rate with their assigned roles. 

Mean­while, high pri­or­i­ty is being placed on enhanc­ing the audit­ing capa­bil­i­ties across U.S. gov­ern­ment clas­si­fied net­works. Plan­ning is now under way to define pol­i­cy and devel­op stan­dards for col­lect­ing and shar­ing of audit and insid­er threat data, offi­cials said. 

Dou­glas B. Wil­son, assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for pub­lic affairs, not­ed this spring that the Wik­iLeaks episode under­scores the need for laws and poli­cies that address the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences of “tech­nol­o­gy at the inter­sec­tion of nation­al security.” 

“Clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion is clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion, and releas­ing that infor­ma­tion is ille­gal,” Wil­son said dur­ing an April 17 inter­view with Vago Mura­di­an on “This Week in Defense News.” 

“But I think that we have a lot to do in gov­ern­ment to under­stand that we need to be focus­ing much more on pol­i­cy and much more on the laws that we need to think about to address what have been very unin­tend­ed con­se­quences of tech­no­log­i­cal advance,” he said. 

Even as social media rev­o­lu­tion­izes infor­ma­tion-shar­ing, the Defense Department’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­e­gy boils down to the respon­si­bil­i­ty of being trans­par­ent and time­ly with­out jeop­ar­diz­ing the safe­ty and pri­va­cy of ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies, Wil­son said. 

“How do you deal with the press and pub­lic open­ly, cred­i­bly, in a time­ly man­ner and hon­est­ly?” Wil­son asked. “How do you pro­vide facts and the truth, by the same token under­stand­ing that we’re respon­si­ble for our men and women in uni­form who are in harm’s way in many places? How do you make sure that there [are] not unin­tend­ed con­se­quences of infor­ma­tion which can put them fur­ther in harm’s way and affect their safe­ty and the pri­va­cy of their families? 

“Those are the issues that frame every­thing that we do,” Wil­son said. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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