House passes law to improve sharing of threat information

From the Associated Press:

Legislation passed by the House Tuesday (H.R. 553) would require DHS to produce a declassified version of threat information for state and local first responders who don’t have the security clearance to view classified material.  The measure would also require portion marking, where certain classified parts of a document might be blacked out but the rest of the information would remain unclassified.

Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists, said the Harman bill sends an important message that classification should not be a barrier to keeping local officials informed about threats.  But he said the bill doesn’t cover the CIA or the Pentagon, the biggest sources of classified data. “This is not the systemic change that we need but it is an urgent part of the larger problem and I hope it will elevate classification reform in the administration agenda.”

The bill, which passed by a voice vote, passed the House in the last session of Congress but wasn’t taken up by the Senate.  The bill now goes to the Senate.  I’ll update this post as the bill status changes.

President Bush says he may ignore parts of Defense bill

From CQ Politics:

President Bush, in signing the defense policy bill Tuesday, issued a statement indicating he reserves the right to heed or disregard four of its provisions as he sees fit.  So-called “signing statement” typically assert the limits of Congress’s power over the executive branch.

Every president since Ronald Reagan has repeatedly engaged in the practice, but none as frequently as Bush, who has objected to more than 1,000 provisions of laws he has enacted, according to a 2007 Congressional Research Service report.

The disputed parts of the $611 billion bill include:

  • A ban on the use of U.S. funds authorized in the measure “to exercise control of the oil resources of Iraq.”
  • A requirement that the U.S. government initiate negotiations with Baghdad on an agreement to share costs of combined military operations in the Iraq war zone.
  • A provision providing certain personnel authorities to a Wartime Contracting Commission.
  • A provision that would create in the Pentagon an office called the director of Operational Energy Plans and Programs.