H.R. 1546 (105th): Government Secrecy Act of 1997

105th Congress, 1997–1998. Text as of May 07, 1997 (Introduced).

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HR 1546 IH

105th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 1546

To provide for a system to classify information in the interests of national security and a system to declassify such information.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

May 7, 1997

Mr. HAMILTON (for himself and Mr. COMBEST) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, and in addition to the Committees on Intelligence (Permanent Select), and National Security, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


A BILL

To provide for a system to classify information in the interests of national security and a system to declassify such information.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ‘Government Secrecy Act of 1997’.

SEC. 2. PURPOSE.

    It is the purpose of this Act to promote the effective protection of classified information and the disclosure of information where there is not a well-founded basis for protection or where the costs of maintaining a secret outweigh the benefits.

SEC. 3. FINDINGS.

    The Congress makes the following findings:

      (1) The system for classifying and declassifying national security information has been based in regulation, not in statute, and has been governed by six successive Executive orders since 1951.

      (2) The Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, established under Public Law 103-236, issued its report on March 4, 1997 (S. Doc. 105-2), in which it recommended reducing the volume of information classified and strengthening the protection of classified information.

      (3) The absence of a statutory framework has resulted in unstable and inconsistent classification and declassification policies, excessive costs, and inadequate implementation.

      (4) The implementation of Executive orders will be even more costly as more documents are prepared and used on electronic systems.

      (5) United States taxpayers incur substantial costs as several million documents are classified each year. According to figures submitted to the Information Security Oversight Office and the Congress, the executive branch and private industry together spent more than $5.2 billion in 1996 to protect classified information.

      (6) A statutory foundation for the classification and declassification of information is likely to result in a more stable and cost-effective set of policies and a more consistent application of rules and procedures.

      (7) Enactment of a statute would create an opportunity for greater oversight by the Congress of executive branch classification and declassification activities, without impairing the responsibility of executive branch officials for the day-to-day administration of the system.

SEC. 4. CLASSIFICATION AND DECLASSIFICATION OF INFORMATION.

    (a) CLASSIFICATION FOR NATIONAL SECURITY REASONS- The President may, in accordance with this Act, protect from unauthorized disclosure information in the possession and control of the executive branch when there is a demonstrable need to do so in order to protect the national security of the United States. The President shall ensure that the amount of information classified is the minimum necessary to protect the national security.

    (b) PROCEDURES FOR CLASSIFICATION AND DECLASSIFICATION-

      (1) IN GENERAL- The President shall, to the extent necessary, establish categories of information that may be classified and procedures for classifying information under subsection (a). The President shall, concurrently with the establishment of such categories and procedures, establish, and allocate resources for the implementation of, procedures for declassifying information previously classified.

      (2) PUBLICATION OF CATEGORIES AND PROCEDURES-

        (A) The President shall publish notice in the Federal Register of any categories and procedures proposed to be established under paragraph (1) with respect to both the classification and declassification of information, and shall provide an opportunity for interested agencies and other interested persons to submit comments thereon. The President shall take into account such comments before establishing the categories and procedures, which shall also be published in the Federal Register.

        (B) The procedures set forth in subparagraph (A) shall apply to any modifications in categories or procedures established under paragraph (1).

      (3) AGENCY STANDARDS AND PROCEDURES- The head of each agency shall establish standards and procedures for classifying and declassifying information created by that agency on the basis of the categories and procedures established by the President under paragraph (1). Each agency head, in establishing and modifying standards and procedures under this paragraph, shall follow the procedures required of the President in paragraph (2) for establishing and modifying categories and procedures under that paragraph.

    (c) CONSIDERATIONS IN DETERMINING CLASSIFICATION AND DECLASSIFICATION-

      (1) IN GENERAL- In determining whether information should be classified or declassified, the agency official making the determination shall weigh the benefit from public disclosure of the information against the need for initial or continued protection of the information under the classification system. If there is significant doubt as to whether information requires such protection, it shall not be classified.

      (2) WRITTEN JUSTIFICATION-

        (A) ORIGINAL CLASSIFICATION- The agency official who makes the decision to classify information shall identify himself or herself and shall provide in writing a detailed justification for that decision.

        (B) DERIVATIVE CLASSIFICATION- In any case in which an agency official classifies a document on the basis of information previously classified that is included or referenced in the document, that agency official shall identify himself or herself in that document.

    (d) STANDARDS FOR DECLASSIFICATION-

      (1) INITIAL CLASSIFICATION PERIOD- Information may not remain classified under this Act for longer than a 10-year period unless the head of the agency that created the information certifies to the President at the end of such period that the information requires continued protection, based on a current assessment of the risks of disclosing the information, carried out in accordance with subsection (c)(1).

      (2) ADDITIONAL CLASSIFICATION PERIOD- Information not declassified prior to or at the end of the 10-year period referred to in paragraph (1) may not remain classified for more than a 30-year period unless the head of the agency that created the information certifies to the President at the end of such 30-year period that continued protection of the information from unauthorized disclosure is essential to the national security of the United States or that demonstrable harm to an individual will result from release of the information.

      (3) DECLASSIFICATION SCHEDULES- All classified information shall be subject to regular review pursuant to schedules each agency head shall establish and publish in the Federal Register. Each agency shall follow the schedule established by the agency head in declassifying information created by that agency.

      (4) ASSESSMENT OF EXISTING CLASSIFIED INFORMATION- Each agency official responsible for information which, before the effective date of this Act--

        (A) was determined to be kept protected from unauthorized disclosure in the interest of national security, and

        (B) had been kept so protected for longer than the 10-year period referred to in paragraph (1),

      shall, to the extent feasible, give priority to making decisions with respect to declassifying that information as soon as is practicable.

    (e) REPORTS TO CONGRESS- Not later than December 31 of each year, the head of each agency that is responsible for the classification and declassification of information shall submit to the Congress a report that describes the application of the classification and declassification standards and procedures of that agency during the preceding fiscal year.

    (f) AMENDMENT TO FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT- Section 552(b)(1) of title 5, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:

      ‘(1)(A) specifically authorized to be classified under the Government Secrecy Act of 1997, or specifically authorized, before the effective date of that Act, under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national security (as defined by section 7(6) of the Government Secrecy Act of 1997), and (B) are in fact properly classified pursuant to that Act or Executive order;’.

SEC. 5. NATIONAL DECLASSIFICATION CENTER.

    (a) ESTABLISHMENT- The President shall establish, within an existing agency, a National Declassification Center, the functions of which shall be--

      (1) to coordinate and oversee the declassification policies and practices of the Federal Government; and

      (2) to provide technical assistance to agencies in implementing such policies and practices, in accordance with this section.

    (b) FUNCTIONS-

      (1) DECLASSIFICATION OF INFORMATION- The Center shall, at the request of any agency and on a reimbursable basis, declassify information within the possession of that agency pursuant to the guidance of that agency on the basis of the declassification standards and procedures established by that agency under section 4, or if another agency created the information, pursuant to the guidance of that other agency on the basis of the declassification standards and procedures established by that agency under section 4. In carrying out this paragraph, the Center may use the services of officers or employees or the resources of another agency, with the consent of the head of that agency.

      (2) COORDINATION OF POLICIES- The Center shall coordinate implementation by agencies of the declassification policies and procedures established by the President under section 4 and shall ensure that declassification of information occurs in an efficient, cost-effective, and consistent manner among all agencies that create or otherwise are in possession of classified information.

      (3) DISPUTES- If disputes arise among agencies regarding whether information should or should not be classified, or between the Center and any agency regarding the Center’s functions under this section, the heads of the agencies concerned or of the Center may refer the matter to the President for resolution of the dispute.

    (c) NATIONAL DECLASSIFICATION ADVISORY COMMITTEE-

      (1) IN GENERAL- There is established a 12-member National Declassification Advisory Committee. 4 members of the Advisory Committee shall be appointed by the President and 2 members each shall be appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the minority leader of the House of Representatives.

      (2) MEMBERSHIP- The members of the Advisory Committee shall be appointed from among distinguished historians, political scientists, archivists, other social scientists, and other members of the public who have a demonstrable expertise in declassification and the management of Government records. No officer or employee of the United States Government shall be appointed to the Advisory Committee.

      (3) DUTIES- The Advisory Committee shall provide advice to the Center and make recommendations concerning declassification priorities and activities.

    (d) ANNUAL REPORTS- The Center shall submit to the President and the Congress, not later than December 31 of each year, a report on its activities during the preceding fiscal year, and on the implementation of agency declassification practices and its efforts to coordinate those practices.

SEC. 6. INFORMATION TO THE CONGRESS.

    Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the withholding of information from the Congress.

SEC. 7. DEFINITIONS.

    As used in this Act--

      (1) the term ‘Advisory Committee’ means the National Declassification Advisory Committee established under section 5(c);

      (2) the term ‘agency’ means any executive agency as defined in section 105 of title 5, United States Code, any military department as defined in section 102 of such title, and any other entity in the executive branch of the Government that comes into the possession of classified information;

      (3) the term ‘Center’ means the National Declassification Center established under section 5(a);

      (4) the terms ‘classify’, ‘classified’, and ‘classification’ refer to the process by which information is determined to require protection from unauthorized disclosure pursuant to this Act in order to protect the national security of the United States;

      (5) the terms ‘declassify’, ‘declassified’, and ‘declassification’ refer to the process by which information that has been classified is determined to no longer require protection from unauthorized disclosure pursuant to this Act; and

      (6) the term ‘national security of the United States’ means the national defense or foreign relations of the United States.

SEC. 8. EFFECTIVE DATE.

    This Act shall take effect 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.