White House Issues Policy Keeping Much Unclassified Info Secret

May 21, 2008

Safety and environmental studies on LNG terminals? Hazards to neighborhoods near chemical plants? Inspection reports on badly maintained dams - or information on what homes would be swept away if they failed?

All this information would remain a secret from the public under a new White House policy on "Controlled Unclassified Information" (CUI). In a memo to federal agency heads May 7, 2008, President Bush consolidated secrecy rules for an alphabet soup of categories, many of which are not actually required by any statute to be kept secret.

"It establishes a single CUI framework, with three graduated levels of sensitivity and security," wrote Steven Aftergood in Secrecy News,published by the Federation of American Scientists. "But the definition of what information may qualify as CUI, which includes anything that "under law or policy" requires protection from unauthorized disclosure, is vague and expansive."

"To put it another way," wrote Aftergood, "the CUI policy does not exclude anything that is currently controlled as Sensitive But Unclassified.