Background


Excerpt
from report:


In
fiscal year (FY) 2010, Congress passed Public Law 111–258 (2010), the Reducing
Over-Classification Act, which required the Inspectors General for all federal
agencies and departments with officers and employees possessing original
classification authority to conduct two evaluations – one in FY 2013 and
another in FY 2016. In September 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ or
Department) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued its audit report on
DOJ’s Implementation of and Compliance with Certain Classification
Requirements.


For that
first evaluation, Congress directed the Inspectors General to: (1) assess
whether applicable classification policies, procedures, rules, and regulations
have been adopted, followed, and are effectively administered within
departments, agencies, or components; and (2) identify policies, procedures,
rules, regulations, or practices that may contribute to persistent
misclassification of material within such departments, agencies, or components.
The OIG found that DOJ, through the Justice Management Division’s (JMD)
Security and Emergency Planning Staff (SEPS), had established classification
policies and procedures, but had not effectively administered them to ensure
that information was classified and disseminated appropriately.


Although
we did not find indications of widespread misclassification, we identified
deficiencies relating to the implementation of DOJ’s classification program,
including a persistent misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of certain
classification processes by DOJ officials. We also identified weaknesses in
DOJ’s implementation of classification standards, the limited distribution of
automated tools designed to improve DOJ’s classification and marking processes,
and weaknesses in the application of information security education and
training programs.


In our
FY 2013 report, we made 14 recommendations to help improve DOJ’s classification
management program and its implementation of classification procedures.
Pursuant to the requirements of the Reducing Over-Classification Act, in this
report we evaluate DOJ’s progress made pursuant to the results of our FY 2013
report. We found that since our last audit SEPS has improved its administration
of classification policies and procedures and enhanced the DOJ’s classification
management program.


These
improvements were evident in our review of DOJ’s classification authority
delegations, classification decision designations, updated classification
guidance, and classification reports. We believe that DOJ achieved these
improvements because SEPS provided updated classification guidance,
instruction, and training to DOJ components, which resulted in components
having a clearer understanding of classification policies and procedures. As a
result of SEPS’s progress in these areas, we have closed 11 of the 14
recommendations identified in our FY 2013 audit.


The
appropriate use of original classification authority (OCA) reduces the risks of
misclassifying and overclassifying information. In our FY 2013 report, we found
that several DOJ components improperly classified information as “original”
classification decisions, when the classification of this type of information
previously had been decided. The improper use of original classification
authority increases the risk that individuals could classify the same piece of
information differently, resulting in the misclassification of information. In
our current audit, we found significant improvements in this area, as evidenced
by DOJ reducing the number of officials with Original Classification Authority
from 64 in FY 2013 to 46 in FY 2016 and eliminating original classification
decisions, as shown in the number of reported original classification decisions
decreasing from 4,455 in FY 2013 to 0 in FY 2015. In our FY 2013 audit, we
found that the high number of original classification decisions was primarily
due to a misunderstanding of the differences between original and derivative
classification decisions within several Department components. We believe that
the dramatic reductions are indicative of DOJ personnel now having a better
understanding of the classification types, as well as an improved knowledge of
how to classify information using security classification guides. In addition,
in 2015 SEPS incorporated comprehensive classification marking instructions in
the DOJ Marking Classified National Security Information, implemented a
software application to improve classified marking procedures for electronic
files processed on classified information systems, and mandated usage of these
tools for all DOJ classifiers. Security Programs Managers throughout the
Department told us that these changes have resulted in classifiers more
appropriately marking classified work products, in particular electronic
documents.


The IG Investigation



 Follow-up
Audit of the Department of Justice’s Implementation of and Compliance with
Certain Classification Requirements, September 2016
[45 Pages, 0.8MB]

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