DOD Bolsters Safeguards for Sensitive Information
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 20, 2012 In a closed House panel hearing on the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, the defense department’s senior civilian official and its top military officer said DOD must do more to protect sensitive information, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey yesterday testified about information security matters before the House Armed Services Committee.
“The secretary and Chairman Dempsey believe that the vast majority of the millions of defense personnel with security clearances would never leak classified material,” Little said.
“However,” he added, “they believe we must do more to protect sensitive information.”
Little said DOD has taken a comprehensive approach to addressing the issue of national security leaks, and that personnel in all components continuously work to protect classified information and identify those who don’t uphold their obligations to protect national defense information.
Recent information security reforms at the department include:
-- Better training on handling and protecting classified information;
-- New guidance on protecting classified information;
-- Better security on classified computer networks;
-- Implementing President Barack Obama's Executive Order establishing an insider-threat task force; and
-- Requiring the use of a department-wide incident report system to track unauthorized disclosures.
The secretary has directed department officials to establish a new "top-down" reporting system for monitoring national-level disclosures, Little said.
“Current regulations mandate that every component within the department report unauthorized disclosures to a security officer for a preliminary review,” he added.
Reports of information security violations are also sent to the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, who with the general counsel may refer matters to the Department of Justice for potential prosecution, Little said.
This "bottom-up" system requires that individuals report potential violations up the chain of command, he said. To ensure greater accountability and tracking of unauthorized disclosures, the secretary also is directing a new "top down" approach.
“The undersecretary of defense for intelligence, in consultation with the assistant secretary for public affairs, will monitor all major, national-level media reporting for unauthorized disclosures of defense department classified information,” Little explained.
The undersecretary of defense for intelligence will ensure that the appropriate department component has been tasked with investigating leaks and initiates the process for appropriate referrals to the Department of Justice, he added.
Panetta reiterated guidance issued by former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, the press secretary said, that gave the assistant secretary for public affairs "sole release authority for all [duty officer] information to news media in Washington."
The secretary, Little said, “directed the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, in consultation with the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs to ensure the prompt and complete notification of these matters to Congress, when required.”
Unauthorized disclosure of classified information jeopardizes national security and is a violation of department regulations, policy, and in certain cases a criminal act that should be prosecuted, the press secretary noted.
“The new actions directed by Secretary Panetta today, in addition to the many steps taken by department personnel in recent months are aimed at ensuring that the department upholds the important requirement to safeguard America's national-security secrets,” Little said.