#OpenGovernment: How Open is too Open?

In the wake of the Open Government Directive issued by President Obama in December of 2009, agencies have been working to take specific actions to implement the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration. However, do we want our National Security Agency (NSA) being transparent about all of their defense tactics and cyber plans?

Does sharing all of this information mean that everyone has access to it? Do we really want potential enemies and hackers to have information on how NSA is governing their cyber security practices? NSA says no! –some things should be kept private.

On November 21st, NSA said it will not publicly release a Presidential Directive document that would establish a broader set of standards that would guide Federal agencies in confronting cyber threats. Presidential Policy Directive 20, first reported in the Washington Post on November 14th, was reportedly signed by President Obama in October and explicitly makes a distinction between network defense and cyber-operations to guide officials charged with making often-rapid decisions when confronted with electronic threats.

The document was requested through FOIA buy the Electronic Privacy and Information Center (EPIC) to be made public, however NSA denied the request stating that much of the information is classified as “Secret” and “Top Secret.” Access to this information by the general public (bad guys included) could indeed lead to grave damage to our national security.

Please join Winvale & Parature for our Open Government Lunch Seminar on December 5th to discuss whether or not your agency is “Open.”

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Henry Brown

Having worked with DOD for several decades, we managed to release a significant percentage of the documents that could be classified as “guidance”

Was there some effort required to strip out classified information? Of course.

Was there times we didn’t release documents because it would be too difficult to strip classified information?

Of course, but even there the information was eventually cleaned up and released.

Hannah Ornell

I wonder what the time costs would be for the DOD to go through the documents it has to release and strip out the classified information. Are the costs worth the benefit of transparency?

Henry Brown

Always a cost, and it would vary by the complexity of the document.

I have no idea (not sure that I even want to have) how much of the Policy Directive is classified. But I can also understand the press’s and other sources wanting to know how this administration is going to deal with Cyber-threats and the impact it will have on all.

One could wonder if one of the reasons for classification of the Policy Directive was to limit the discussion of said document.

Heather Young

I would imagine that there is considerable time and effort spent on taking out classified information. Much to the point that the documents no longer make sense to a public reader. The government is so quick to qualify everything as either “secret” or “top secret” that it doesn’t leave a lot of room left for what can be made public. With that in mind, I think it’s important for the public to have access to as much information as the government will allow.