It appears that the Obama administration trusts the nation’s governors to keep a secret.
In a newly issued executive order on access to classified national security information, the administration said that governors can see such information without undergoing a background investigation, but first have to sign a non-disclosure agreement and can’t have any “disqualifying conduct” in the eyes of the clearance-granting official. Their clearances also can’t go beyond the “Secret” level, except on a case-by-case basis.
“To my knowledge, this is a new provision,” said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists who noted it on his blog Monday.
Prior to the the issuance of last Wednesday’s executive order, “there was no written policy specific to access by governors,” confirmed William Bosanko, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, a part of the National Archives and Records Administration that oversees the classification system. But the order incorporates long-standing practice under which governors were considered “inherently trustworthy” by virtue of their jobs and thus did not require a background investigation for access to classified information, Bosanko said.
A National Governors Association spokeswoman had no further information.
In case you were wondering, incidentally, members of Congress are also considered “inherently trustworthy,” but don’t have to sign non-disclosure agreements, according to a Congressional Research Service report. House members instead have to swear to avoid any unauthorized disclosures of classified information. The Senate apparently imposes no such obligation on its members, the report says.
[Updated Aug. 24 at 10:05 a.m. to reflect the National Governors Association response and at 1:41 p.m. with Bosanko comments.]