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United States

Increase Transparency of the Intelligence Community (US0071)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: NA

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Open Data

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation , Public Accountability , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Building on steps the Administration has taken to reform U.S. signals intelligence activities, the Administration will increase its efforts to make information regarding foreign intelligence activities more publicly available, while continuing to protect such information when disclosure could harm national security. In 2015, the Director of National Intelligence issued Principles of Intelligence Transparency for the Intelligence Community to enhance public understanding of the intelligence community by making information available through authorized channels. The principles also emphasize the importance of intelligence officials diligently exercising both their classification and declassification responsibilities.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 19. Increase Transparency of the Intelligence Community

Commitment Text:

Increase Transparency of the Intelligence Community

Building on steps the Administration has taken to reform U.S. signals intelligence activities, the Administration will increase its efforts to make information regarding foreign intelligence activities more publicly available, while continuing to protect such information when disclosure could harm national security. In 2015, the Director of National Intelligence issued Principles of Intelligence Transparency for the Intelligence Community to enhance public understanding of the intelligence community by making information available through authorized channels. The principles also emphasize the importance of intelligence officials diligently exercising both their classification and declassification responsibilities. Furthering these commitments, the United States will:

  • Publish an Open Government Plan for the Intelligence Community. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence will publish an Open Government Plan for the Intelligence Community. Among other efforts, the plan will call on the Intelligence Community agencies to describe their governance frameworks in readily understandable terms, supported with appropriate releases of corresponding legal and policy documents; develop and apply criteria for identifying other information about the Intelligence Community that can be feasibly released to enhance public understanding; and establish an Intelligence Community transparency council consisting of officials responsible for coordinating agency transparency efforts.
  • Expand and Improve Public Electronic Access to Information About the Intelligence Community. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence will establish Intelligence.gov as the primary portal for the intelligence community’s public information. Intelligence.gov will provide a single venue to present information from across the intelligence community, including plain language descriptions of its mission, activities and governance framework, and links to other relevant intelligence community websites.
  • Develop a Structure for Engagement with Civil Society. The Intelligence Community will hold regular meetings with civil society to better inform transparency efforts in light of the Intelligence Community’s mission, responsibilities, priorities, and challenges. In addition, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will lead a process to identify and update applicable processes and guidelines so that the use of social media can become fully integrated in each intelligence community agency’s public communications efforts.
  • Reinforce the Principle that the Intelligence Community Workforce Can and Should Raise Concerns through Appropriate Mechanisms. The Intelligence Community will enhance efforts to ensure that its workforce understands how to use authorized channels for submitting workforce concerns about potential misconduct. In addition, the Civil Liberties and Privacy Office of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will leverage the National Intelligence Award program to recognize outstanding achievement by an intelligence professional in effectuating change through conduct that exemplifies the professional ethics principles of speaking truth to power or reporting misconduct through authorized channels.

Responsible Institution: Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)

Supporting Institutions: Intelligence community agencies

Start Date: Not Specified End Date: Not Specified

Commitment Aim

Following a string of high-level leaks by government employees and contractors,[1] this commitment aimed to increase transparency of the intelligence community (IC) by:

Publishing an open government plan for the IC that would describe agencies’ governance frameworks, develop a framework to identify and release information to the public about the community’s activities, and establish a transparency council to coordinate agencies’ transparency efforts;

Positioning Intelligence.gov as the IC’s main public-facing website for information on intelligence community activities;

Developing a structure for regular IC engagement with civil society; and

Ensuring that individuals working in the IC understand how to submit concerns about workforce misconduct.

Status

Midterm: Limited

At the midterm, the government had made limited progress on this commitment:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) formed the Transparency Council mentioned in the commitment text.[2] However, the open government plan for the IC was not yet developed or published, resulting in limited completion for Milestone 19.1.

Per the government’s midterm self-assessment report, ODNI began to develop content for Intelligence.gov,[3] with a January 2017 launch date. Thus, Milestone 19.2 has limited completion.

Per the report, ODNI engaged with civil society stakeholders on intelligence issues, with the goal of developing more institutionalized channels of engagement. The OpenTheGovernment.org civil society coalition previously confirmed that a new structure of engagement was underway. However, given that no channels for civil society engagement were institutionalized at the midterm, progress for Milestone 19.3 was limited.

Per the government’s report, ODNI began developing a National Intelligence Professional Awards program. The program would recognize intelligence community members who report wrongdoing through appropriate channels or exhibit professional integrity. However, as the program remained in a developmental phase, progress for Milestone 19.4 was limited.

End of term: Limited

Progress for this commitment remains limited at the end of term.

Based on publicly available information, the IRM researcher was unable to verify the publication—or any progress being made on the development of—an open government plan for the intelligence community (IC), resulting in limited completion for Milestone 19.1. According to ODNI, the IC Transparency Implementation Plan published in October 2015 will now be serving as the de-facto joint open government plan for the IC.[4] However, given that the IC Transparency Implementation Plan 1) was published on the same day as the OGP action plan and 2) included a commitment to develop an “IC-wide plan for Open Government,” it is clearly not the open government plan that this commitment envisioned. There is therefore no change in the level of completion at the end of term.

ODNI carried out several initiatives during the action plan period to improve public access to information about the IC (Milestone 19.2). For example, in June 2016, ODNI released—for the first time—its report on IC workforce demographics.[5] In April 2017, ODNI launched a redesigned version of dni.gov[6] that received recognition from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation as one of the top five most improved government websites in 2017.[7] After the close of the action plan period, ODNI continued to publish information online on foreign surveillance, such as an illustrated overview of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA),[8] real-world examples of its use,[9] as well as information on how U.S. person identities are protected when disseminating information collected under FISA authorities.[10] The Intelligence.gov platform mentioned in the milestone text was also launched after the close of the action plan period in November 2017.[11] At the close of the end-of-term reporting period, the URL “Intelligence.gov” still redirected visitors to Intelligencecareers.gov, a careers website for the IC. The launch of this website was the only concrete activity listed in the text of the milestone. Completion for Milestone 19.2 therefore remained limited at the end of term.

Based on publicly available information, the IRM researcher was unable to document any progress made on the development of institutionalized structures for engaging with civil society (Milestone 19.3). According to ODNI, the government held regular meetings with civil society in 2017 to discuss issues related to the reauthorization of Section 702 of FISA.[12] In addition, ODNI noted that it used the Transparency Council (cited in Milestone 19.1) to receive inputs from civil society.[13] However, there was no apparent progress on a structure of engagement during the action plan period—as required by the milestone.

Still, it is important to note progress on this front after the close of the action plan period. For example, on 28 February 2018, the Director of National Intelligence issued a directive that, among other things, states that ODNI’s Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency shall “conduct regular outreach to external stakeholder groups concerned with civil liberties, privacy, and transparency matters in order to enable substantive dialogue and understanding of diverse perspectives on issues of mutual interest.”[14] In addition, according to ODNI, the inaugural Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency Summit in January 2018 featured the participation of civil society members.[15]

As for the other element of Milestone 19.3—the identification and updating of social media guidelines for the IC—ODNI pointed to several achievements. For example, in February 2016, ODNI held the first ever Tumblr Answer Time (Q&A) event with a US Cabinet Official (former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper).[16] The ODNI National Intelligence Council also solicited feedback from the public to feed into its Global Trends Report[17] for the first time through a Tumblr blog.[18] In addition, ODNI noted that it leads a social media community of practice, which supports best practices across the 17 member offices and agencies of the IC.[19] According to ODNI, it also contributed to the Public Participation Playbook[20] and to a GSA project to establish a model Social Media policy.[21] While these are all positive developments, the IRM could not find evidence of updates to social media guidelines, as specified in the text of the milestone. Relatedly, all IC social media channels are notably now consolidated on the new intelligence.gov,[22] but this took place after the close of the action plan.

Ultimately, in the absence of new structures for civil engagement and updated social media guidelines during the action plan period, Milestone 19.3 remained with limited completion at the end of term.

In terms of reinforcing the principle that IC employees can and should raise concerns through the appropriate channels (Milestone 19.4), on 18 November 2016, ODNI announced the release of the Protecting Whistleblowers training curriculum,[23] which is available online.[24] As described in an ODNI fact sheet,[25] the curriculum has four modules: (1) general information on whistleblowing and the process for making a protected disclosure; (2) processes for addressing adverse, retaliatory actions affecting a security clearance; (3) processes for addressing adverse, retaliatory personnel actions; and (4) best practices for managers and supervisors—complemented by the inclusion of key terms and references. More information on this curriculum is available under the analysis of Commitment 29. Strengthen Whistleblower Protections for Government Employees, for which this is a specific milestone (Milestone 29.1).

In addition to the training curriculum, ODNI noted that the National Intelligence Award program was updated—as required by the milestone—in June 2017.[26] According to ODNI, there is now a new Intelligence Community Directive (ICD 655-16) that created the following awards:

  • The Civil Liberties and Privacy Official of the Year Award;
  • The Transparency Official of the Year Award; and
  • The Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency Public Trust Award

According to ODNI, each IC element or agency may submit annual nominations for each award to an interagency board that reviews nominations.[27] The ODNI Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency Chief then makes the final determinations. According to ODNI, these awards were first awarded in January 2018 at an interagency summit hosted by ODNI.[28]

Despite the information provided by ODNI, the IRM is unable to verify the existence of the new award program based on publicly available information. For example, the new Intelligence Community Directive cited by the agency is not available online. In fact, the ODNI webpage that lists all of the Intelligence Community Directives does not include a revised ICD 655.[29] Instead, it links only to an ICD 655 that was last revised in February 2012, which does not reference the new awards. Therefore, while the new whistleblower training curriculum represents positive progress towards raising awareness of whistleblowing protections, this milestone is considered substantially—rather than fully—complete in light of the IRM’s inability to verify the existence of the awards program.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that the IC Inspector General launched a new website that provides important whistleblowing information, including how to submit a complaint, the information that should be reported, and an overview of whistleblower protections.[30] However, the government launched this website after the close of the action plan period in June 2017.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Did Not Change

Civic Participation: Did Not Change

Public Accountability: Marginal

This commitment did not open government with respect to access to information or civic participation because none of the deliverables related to these values and explicitly listed in the commitment—an IC open government plan, a new structure for civil society engagement, updated social media guidelines, and intelligence.gov—were completed by the close of the end-of-term reporting period. While ODNI carried out other means of public engagement during the action plan period, these either do not constitute changes to existing government practices (e.g., the regular meetings with civil society) or are not directly linked to this commitment (e.g., the release of the IC workforce demographics report and the launch of the new dni.gov).

The commitment did nonetheless contribute to greater public accountability through the release of the whistleblowing training curriculum, which serves to raise awareness among IC employees of how to navigate the whistleblowing process and hold government officials accountable for their actions. While the training curriculum on its own is a marginal improvement, recent whistleblowing legislation has complemented this initiative and led to significant improvements in whistleblowing processes. For more information about this, please see Commitment 29. Strengthen Whistleblower Protections.

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the US government had not published its fourth national action plan, so it is unclear if this commitment will be carried forward. Many of the activities could be incorporated in an open government plan for the intelligence community (IC). Progress could be monitored and reported on by civil society, government actors, and other interested stakeholders. Establishing a formal plan could serve to hold the IC accountable for its open government commitments.

Going forward, the government could focus its efforts on developing such a plan. As noted by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, “continued progress in this area will depend not only on the availability of needed resources but also, more importantly, on the quality of intelligence agency leadership. If senior officials see value in greater transparency and are willing to prioritize it, there is much progress that can still be made. But if not, previous advances could grind to a halt.”[31]

It is worth noting that the February 2018 directive issued by the Director of National Intelligence (referenced earlier) is a positive step forward on this front. It reaffirms the ODNI’s commitment to transparency and seeks to formalize existing transparency practices.[32]


[1] Greg Miller, “Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and the Risk of the Low-Level, Tech-Savvy Leaker,” Washington Post, 11 June 2013, http://wapo.st/2qkn5PN.

[2] Office of the Director of National Intelligence, The Intelligence Transparency Council, https://fas.org/sgp/othergov/intel/dni-itc.pdf.

[3] United States of America, Midterm Self-Assessment Report for the Open Government Partnership: Third Open Government National Action Plan, 2015-2017, September 2016, 21, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/USA_NAP3_self-assessment-report_20160916.pdf, consulted 4 October 2017.

[4] The IRM received this information in a comment that ODNI submitted during the pre-publication review of this report. The comment was received via e-mail on 30 April 2018.

[5] “Annual Demographic Report: Hiring and Retention of Minorities, Women, and Persons with Disabilities in the United States Intelligence Community Fiscal Year 2015,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, June 2016, https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/FY%202015%20Annual%20Report.pdf, consulted 3 May 2018.

[6] “ODNI Launches New DNI.Gov, Integrating Websites from NCTC, NCSC,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 25 April 2017, https://www.dni.gov/index.php/newsroom/press-releases/item/1748-odni-launches-new-dni-gov-integrating-websites-from-nctc-ncsc, consulted 3 May 2018.

[7] Daniel Castro et al, “Benchmarking U.S. Government Websites,” Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, November 2017, http://www2.itif.org/2017-benchmarking-us-government-websites.pdf, consulted 3 May 2018.

[8] “Section 702 Overview,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, https://www.dni.gov/files/icotr/Section702-Basics-Infographic.pdf, consulted 3 May 2018.

[9] “Guide to Section 702 Value Examples,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, October 2017, https://www.dni.gov/files/icotr/Guide-to-Section-702-Value-Examples.pdf, consulted 3 May 2018.

[10] “Protecting U.S. Person Identities in Disseminations under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency, November 2017, https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/icotr/CLPT-USP-Dissemination-Paper---FINAL-clean-11.17.17.pdf, consulted 3 May 2018.

[11] “Intelligence.gov Re-Launch Marks New Era for IC Transparency,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 13 November 2017, http://bit.ly/2yAZKNW.

[12] The IRM received this information in a comment that ODNI submitted during the pre-publication review of this report. The comment was received via e-mail on 30 April 2018.

[13] Ibid.

[14] “Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency,” Intelligence Community Directive 107, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 28 February 2018, https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICD/ICD-107.pdf, consulted 4 May 2018.

[15] The IRM received this information in a comment that ODNI submitted during the pre-publication review of this report. The comment was received via e-mail on 30 April 2018.

[16] “Tumblr #AnswerTime with James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence for the United States of America,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, IC on the Record, 17 February 2017, https://icontherecord.tumblr.com/post/139429449043/dniclapperanswertime, consulted 4 May 2018.

[17] “Global Trends,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 9 January 2017, https://www.dni.gov/index.php/global-trends-home, consulted 4 May 2018.

[18] “Global Trends,” National Intelligence Council, https://nicglobaltrends.tumblr.com/, consulted 4 May 2018.

[19] The IRM received this information in a comment that ODNI submitted during the pre-publication review of this report. The comment was received via e-mail on 30 April 2018.

[20] “US Public Participation Playbook,” https://participation.usa.gov/, consulted 4 May 2018.

[21] The IRM received this information in a comment that ODNI submitted during the pre-publication review of this report. The comment was received via e-mail on 30 April 2018.

[22] “The Public’s Daily Brief,” Intel.gov, https://www.intel.gov/publics-daily-brief, consulted 4 May 2018.

[23] Director of National Intelligence. “Memorandum ES 2016-00692.” 18 November 2016. https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/icotr/Memo_Whistleblower.PDF. Consulted 21 September 2016.

[24] Director of National Intelligence. “Protecting Whistleblowers with Access to Classified Information Training Curriculum.” https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/icotr/Whistleblower.PDF. Consulted September 21 2017.

[25] Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “Whistleblower Training Factsheet.” https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/icotr/Whistleblower%20Training_Fact%20Sheet.pdf. Consulted 21 September 2017.

[26] The IRM received this information in a comment that ODNI submitted during the pre-publication review of this report. The comment was received via e-mail on 30 April 2018.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] “Intelligence Community Directives,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, https://www.dni.gov/index.php/what-we-do/ic-related-menus/ic-related-links/intelligence-community-directives, consulted 7 May 2018.

[30] “Introducing IC Whistleblowing,” Office of the Director of National Intelligence, https://www.dni.gov/ICIG-Whistleblower/, consulted 4 May 2018.

[31] Written comments provided by Steven Aftergood, 28 October 2017.

[32] “Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency,” Intelligence Community Directive 107, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 28 February 2018, https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICD/ICD-107.pdf, consulted 4 May 2018.


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