Secrecy makes us naturally distrustful of other people. When we sense that someone else is withholding information, we can’t help but feel suspicious of their motives. This may be why the State Department’s continued efforts to hide information from the American public, routinely through overclassification, leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
The State Department is no stranger to the misuse of classification procedures: in May, PPSA reported on the Department’s Self-Inspection Report, which we obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request. The report detailed minimal instances where information was in some way misclassified. At the time, PPSA called the report into question, as it seemed statistically impossible that only a few dozen articles were misclassified out of over 70 million classifications. Furthermore, the State Department only polled a sample of their classifications, meaning there are undoubtedly more misclassifications than reported.
PPSA recently received an additional batch of documents from the State Department which only further cement our prior concern. According to internal documents spanning several years, the Department has failed to correct a “significant lack of portion marking,” when conducting classification. Portion marking refers to the process of marking specific portions of a record as classified, as opposed to the entire record. This means that entire documents have been classified where only smaller portions should have been.
PPSA will continue to report on overclassification in the State Department as more information becomes available.