Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder today announced two major steps in their efforts to implement reforms to enhance information sharing among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies and safeguard sensitive information used by the government—designed to expand joint capabilities to protect the United States from terrorist activity, violent crime and other threats to the homeland.
The Presidential Interagency Task Force on Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI), led by Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder, today released a report recommending a single, standardized framework for marking, safeguarding and disseminating sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information across the federal government. SBU information refers collectively to the various designations for documents and information that are sufficiently sensitive to warrant some level of protection but that do not meet the standards for classification.
Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder also announced the creation of dual Program Management Offices (PMOs) to coordinate support for state and local Fusion Centers and the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSI), housed within DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ), respectively, to work in partnership to enhance information sharing between federal, state, local and tribal agencies and the private sector. Coupled with the CUI framework, these new offices represent a significant milestone toward fully implementing information sharing reforms called for following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Our review of policies and procedures for access to and sharing of sensitive but unclassified information across the U.S. Government revealed a need for a more open, standardized approach,” said Secretary Napolitano. “The task force recommendations, coupled with newly-dedicated federal-wide resources to support Fusion Centers, will improve information sharing, transparency and engagement with our partners in state and local law enforcement as we work together to combat terrorism, violent crime and other dangerous threats to the homeland.”
“Our recommendations will allow the federal government to be more open and transparent while still meeting our first priority of keeping the American people safe,” said Attorney General Holder. “By streamlining and modernizing the system for designating, marking and handling sensitive information, we can achieve the appropriate balance between the public’s right to access information and the government’s imperative to maintain the security and privacy of all Americans.”
Both announcements reflect the Obama administration’s commitment to improving the ability of federal state, local and tribal governments as well as the private sector to gather, analyze, share and utilize information in order to protect communities from violent crime including terrorism, while protecting the privacy and civil rights of Americans.
The Task Force report proposes 40 actions intended to mitigate current inconsistencies among SBU information policies in federal agencies by simplifying and consolidating procedures—intended to enhance standardization, information sharing, government transparency, and protection of information only where there is a compelling requirement to do so. The recommendations also seek to balance the imperatives of protecting legitimate security, law enforcement, privacy and civil liberties interests.
The Task Force was directed to review the ongoing efforts of the CUI Council, which was established by a 2008 Presidential Memorandum, and its ongoing efforts to establish a CUI Framework for terrorism-related information. One significant recommendation in the report would expand the scope of the CUI Framework to the designation, marking, safeguarding and dissemination of all SBU information.
The new PMOs will work jointly to provide sustained funding and personnel support to 72 state and local Fusion Centers nationwide and provide training and resources to frontline law enforcement officials to better document activities possibly linked to terrorism through NSI, a DHS-DOJ collaboration designed to detect, analyze and share intelligence about suspicious behavior and other indicators while protecting privacy and civil liberties.
The Fusion Center and NSI PMOs will establish strong cross-linkages, including the exchange of senior-level specialists and management personnel, and joint program performance measures in order to ensure efficient oversight and coordination of current initiatives and successfully facilitate ongoing efforts to build and develop the Information Sharing Environment.
State and major urban area Fusion Centers help fulfill key recommendations of the 9/11 Commission by providing critical links for information sharing between and across all levels of government. NSI operates in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major City Chiefs, Major County Sheriffs, and other state, local and tribal partners to gather, blend and analyze information gathered from local law enforcement about suspicious activity.
There are more than 100 different SBU markings and handling procedures currently in use across the federal government. The report recommends that all SBU markings be replaced with one, simplified set of markings—”CUI”—which will be standardized under the CUI Framework. Additional recommendations include simplifying the definition of CUI; clarifying that CUI markings have no bearing on releases either under the Freedom of Information Act or to Congress; and phasing in implementation of the expanded scope of the CUI Framework.
President Obama initiated the review on May 27 with a Presidential Memorandum directing Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder to lead a 90-day review of current procedures for categorizing and sharing SBU information. If implemented, the recommendations would revise the 2008 Presidential Memorandum that established the CUI Framework for handling and disseminating CUI information.
The Task Force, which involved senior representatives from 12 federal agencies, met with representatives both within and outside the information sharing environment; state, local and tribal partners; privacy and open government organizations; and members of Congress. The Task Force also analyzed previous studies of SBU and the efforts of the CUI Council.
Report and Recommendations of the Presidental Task Force on Controlled Unclassified Information
(PDF – 50 pages, 1.25 MB)