Pentagon’s Classification Habit Is Faulted by Key Lawmaker

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(Bloomberg) -- The new chairman of the House subcommittee that bankrolls defense and intelligence spending is the latest lawmaker to accuse the Pentagon of classifying too much information.

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“I’ve been doing this intelligence stuff for a long time, probably more than anybody, and I’d say 70% of what I see, I don’t understand why it’s classified,” Representative Ken Calvert, a California Republican, said in an interview.

“We need to let people know what our threats are,” said Calvert, who heads the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. “We’d probably get a lot more support for certain things if people recognized the real threat that China is. Some things are classified that shouldn’t be.”

Criticism of too much classification is coming even from some of those charged with keeping the nation’s most sensitive secrets.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said at a conference last month that overclassification is an “urgent challenge to solve” because it “undermines critical democratic objectives such as increasing transparency to promote an informed citizenry and greater accountability.”

The sheer volume of classified documents produced throughout the government has been illustrated dramatically in recent months by the boxes of them discovered at the Florida resort of former President Donald Trump, followed by the disclosure that more documents were kept by President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence.

Calvert criticized not only information marked “Classified” or “Secret” but the “Controlled Unclassified Information” designation that the Defense Department and the military services use to keep some information from public release.

That practice drew bipartisan criticism last year in the defense policy and appropriations bills. In the $1.75 trillion government spending bill, Congress directed the Defense Department to look into whether bureaucrats are overusing the designation.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, has said the CUI label appears intended to suppress bad news under the guise of national security. Last year, the Army stamped CUI on negative test results of Microsoft Corp.’s new combat goggles. In 2021, the Navy directed the Pentagon’s testing office to mark as CUI a report that found the new presidential helicopter, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s VH-92, wasn’t yet “operationally suitable.”

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