Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a long-awaited implementation plan last week for the intelligence community’s overarching strategy for making more information available to the public about intelligence activities, programs, and oversight mechanisms.
The Principles of Intelligence Transparency Implementation Plan comes nine months after Clapper first outlined what those principles were and seeks to create concrete, measurable initiatives to help guide and balance the public’s desire to know what is being done in their name with the intelligence community’s legitimate role in securing the nation and protecting vital national secrets.
“We believe transparency is worth the cost,” Clapper said, speaking Tuesday at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. “Because if the American people don’t understand what we are doing, why it’s important and how we’re protecting their privacy and civil liberties, we will lose their confidence and that will affect our ability to perform our mission – which ultimately serves them.”
The principles, along with the implementation plan, are a direct response to the Obama administration’s commitment to providing a more open government, as well as calls for greater transparency in light of the revelations pertaining to the NSA’s domestic telephone and Internet surveillance programs.
The implementation plan released Tuesday addresses four principles:
- Provide appropriate transparency to enhance public understanding of the IC.
- Be proactive and clear in making information publicly available.
- Protect information about intelligence sources, methods, and activities.
- Align IC roles, resources, processes, and policies to support transparency implementation.
“Our first priority is to make more information available about our governance framework,” said Alexander W. Joel, ODNI’s civil liberties protection officer. “We’ve already done a huge amount of work on that and we need to do even more to get that information out. We have some ideas on how to make that more understandable and comprehensive for the public.”
The goal of the implementation plan is to institutionalize transparency into the culture of the intelligence community, according to the 17-page planning document released by the DNI. The central focus of the effort will be a new online portal, www.intelligence.gov, which will serve as the intelligence community’s primary online publishing tool for publicly releasable information. The implementation plan also calls for organizations within the intelligence community to develop a standardized Web content checklist to ensure that each component of the community provides the public with similar information that is readily accessible and understandable.
The document calls for the following specific plans and initiatives to enhance and increase transparency:
- Each component agency should establish transparency officer and coordinator positions. Component transparency officers would sit on an Intelligence Transparency Council established by the DNI;
- Provide more information on the intelligence community’s governance framework, including facilitating the release of more legal and oversight documents and opinions;
- Provide more information on the community’s missions and activities that go beyond the governance framework, including releasable intelligence imagery and moving unclassified data that can be released to systems that can make it available for public access;
- Where possible, release information of historical value that also sheds light on current topics of interest, such as the documents collected at Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan; and
- Expand the use of social media through best practices that can be shared across the component agencies of the intelligence community.