Open government groups are hailing a new executive order requiring federal agencies to review and justify markings used to designate numerous types of “controlled unclassified information. “
Under the reviews, agency officials must define each “category and subcategory” of CUI and link it to a specific law, regulation or government-wide policy. The National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office will have to sign off on the results.
The order–published Tuesday, Nov. 9 in the Federal Register–labels the current system of markings—such as “For Official Use Only”—an “inefficient, confusing patchwork” that “has resulted in inconsistent marking and safeguarding of documents, led to unclear or unnecessarily restrictive dissemination policies and created impediments to authorized information-sharing.”
“The fact that these agency-specific policies are often hidden from public view has only aggravated these issues,” the order says. A presidential task force had recommended a consolidated CUI system last year.
In news releases, several open government groups praised another provision that makes clear that CUI markings will have no bearing on whether records are releasable under the Freedom of Information Act.
The order “is a victory for openness, for both our community and the administration,” said Patrice McDermott, director of the OpenTheGovernment.org coalition.
“We are very pleased that the Obama administration took the opportunity to reform a confusing and inconsistent system that unnecessarily prevented information from being shared with the public and within the government,” Mike German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a separate release.
At OMB Watch, Executive Director Gary Bass said the order “creates a fair and public process,” but added: “As always, implementation will determine if this policy succeeds or fails.”