Report in PDF
Chart: Card Memorandum FOIA Requests, Summary of Agency Processing
Chart: Impact of Card Memorandum, By Agency
Chart: Sensitive Unclassified Information FOIA Requests, Summary
of Agency Processing
Chart: Sensitive Unclassified Information, Policies by Agency
Chart: Sensitive Unclassified Information, Distinct Policies
Glossary of Acronyms
FOIA Audit Phase 1: The Ashcroft
Memo, March 14, 2003
Audit Phase 2: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: The Ten
Oldest Pending FOIA Requests, November 13, 2003
FOIA Request Celebrates Its 17th Birthday: National Security
Archive Audit Identifies
"10 OLDEST" Requests in U.S. Federal Government,
March 12, 2006
Wins 2006 "Rosemary Award"
for Worst Freedom of Information Performance by a Federal
Agency, March 13, 2006
more information contact:
Kristin Adair, Freedom of Information Associate
Fuchs, Archive General Counsel
Thomas Blanton, Archive Director
D.C., March 14, 2006 - The first-ever government-wide
audit of the ways that federal agencies mark
and protect information that is unclassified but sensitive
for security reasons has found 28 different and uncoordinated
policies, none of which include effective oversight or monitoring
of how many records are marked and withheld, by whom, or
for how long.
The audit began in February 2005 with Freedom of Information
requests from the National Security Archive at George Washington
University, to more than 40 agencies, for copies of their
policies and guidelines on "sensitive unclassified
information." The Archive released its Audit today
at a Congressional hearing held by the Subcommittee on Emerging
Threats (chaired by Rep. Christopher Shays, R-CT.), U. S.
House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform.
A Freedom of Information Audit of the U.S. Government's
Policies on Sensitive Unclassified Information,"
the audit found:
- No agency monitors or reports on the use or impact of
sensitive unclassified information policies.
- Only 8 agencies have policies that are authorized by
statute and implemented by regulation.
- No challenge or appeals mechanism for questioning the
markings exists in any of the policies.
- Only one policy contains a "sunset" provision
for the sensitive unclassified markings - at the Agriculture
Department - but the maximum duration of 10 years is the
same as for Top Secret information in the classification
- 8 agencies effectively allow any employee to slap protective
markings on records, including the largest single department
other than Defense, Homeland Security (more than 180,000
- Only 7 policies include cautions or qualifiers against
using the markings to conceal embarrassing, illegal or
inefficient agency actions (in the classified system,
this is an explicit prohibition).
- 11 agencies report no policy on sensitive unclassified
information (these agencies may use "official use
only" and similar markings, but not - apparently
- to protect information that is sensitive because of
its security implications, which was the focus of the
Archive director Thomas Blanton testified to the Subcommittee
today that "We believe the diversity of policies, the
ambiguous and incomplete guidelines, the lack of monitoring,
and the decentralized administration of information controls
on sensitive unclassified information - all of which is
evident in our Audit results - means that neither the Congress
nor the public can really tell whether these sensitive unclassified
information policies are actually working to safeguard our
security, or are being abused for administrative convenience