DNI Avril Haines: 'Just Because Information Is Inconvenient or Embarrassing Is Not a Basis for Classification'

Susan Jones | January 27, 2023 | 5:43am EST
Text Audio
00:00 00:00
Font Size
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines spoke about the over-classification of intelligence Thursday night in a speech at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.

The alleged mishandling of classified material by Joe Biden and Donald Trump was never mentioned, either in her speech or in the Q&A that followed.

But Haines did say that classification should not be used as a shield:

"There are some real pragmatic challenges that we face as we try to create a system that is more effective," Haines said:

"First, I want to say what is likely obvious but worth, perhaps, reiterating -- which is that we must keep certain information secret or we will not be able to do our job in the intelligence community.

"But it does have to meet a national security standard. And to be clear, just because information is inconvenient or embarrassing is not a basis for classification. But there are real national security reasons for keeping certain things secret that should not get in the way of promoting an educated public debate or doing our jobs."

Most of Haines' speech was devoted to the "urgent challenge" of "classification reform."

"First, over-classification undermines critical democratic objectives such as increasing transparency to promote an informed citizenry and greater accountability. And second, over-classification undermines the basic trust that the public has in its government. And third, over-classification negatively impacts national security because it increases the challenges associated with sharing information that should not be classified, or at least not classified at the level the information is classified at," she said.

Haines also mentioned the overwhelming amount of classified material:

"For example, in an already constrained resource environment, we have a relatively small number of people, money and subject matter expertise dedicated solely to declassification review. And that relatively small group faces the daunting task of processing requests from an utterly massive repository of records."

Haines pointed to a report prepared ten years ago that said at one intelligence agency alone, the growth off classified records was approximately one petabyte every 18 months, or about 49 million cubic feet of paper. "Imagine what it is today, right? And how many people would it takee to review that much information?" she asked.

Haines presented "two major objectives" for the current over-classification problem:

"First, we need to continue working on the development of a system that promotes the appropriate classification of information...to begin with; and that minimizes what is classified as an initial matter.

"And second, we need to facilitate the downgrading and declassification of information as it ages to promote sharing and disclosure, when possible, to promote a better public debate and enhance accountability and trust, and to support our work across government as well as with partners and allies."

Haines said those two objectives are things the intelligence community "can and should make progress on" with the help of Congress.

She said she is "committed" to working on classification reform, and she singled out Senators Ron Wyden and Jerry Moran, who "have been stalwart supporters" of classification reform and focused attention on the issue.

Notably, according to senators who were briefed by Haines in closed session on Wednesday, Haines was not willing to discuss the classified material retrieved from Donald Trump's home or Joe Biden's home and office.

Also See:
Senate Intel Committee Members: 'The Administration Is Stonewalling Congress' on Biden/Trump Classified Documents

mrc merch