by Steven Aftergood © June 15, 2000

One of the features of government security policy that has elicited comment in the case of the missing Los Alamos hard drives is the lack of any requirement for "accountability" of information classified at the SECRET level.

That is, there is no requirement to maintain a running inventory of who may have accessed or "checked out" a SECRET document or item. In contrast, TOP SECRET documents are fully "accountable" and must be tracked from creation through destruction.

This "non-accountability for SECRET" policy was adopted as a cost saving measure by the National Industrial Security Program, which was established by President Bush in his Executive Order 12829, 6 January 1993.

Thus, Section 5-201 of the "National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual" (NISPOM), published in January 1995, declares:

"The document accountability system for SECRET material is eliminated as a security protection measure, except for highly sensitive program information and where special conditions exist as approved by the GCA [Government Contracting Activity]."

See Section 5-201 of the NISPOM here:

The full NISPOM may be found here:

The fact that SECRET RD is to be treated the same as SECRET is noted in the Defense Investigative Service's Industrial Security Letter 95L-1 (see question 19) here:

President Bush's Executive Order 12829 may be found here:

Attorney General Janet Reno today addressed the legislation put forward by the Senate Intelligence Committee that would criminalize leaks of classified information. She made the crucial observation that much of what is classified is not *properly* classified.

"I think what we want to do is make sure that the information that is classified is truly classified, and that there is no attempt or that there's no ability of people to overclassify information, to limit what can be truly discussed in the public's domain."

The remarks were made during the Attorney General's weekly press briefing on Thursday. The full transcript is posted here:

Steven Aftergood
Project on Government Secrecy
Federation of American Scientists