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Pentagon deputy orders: If in doubt, don’t give it out

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information         Oct 24, 2001    

Pentagon deputy orders: If in doubt, don’t give it out

  • Defense department employees must strive to keep both classified and unclassified information secret during the national emergency declared in response to terrorist attacks, the deputy defense secretary ordered on Oct. 18.

In a short memorandum peppered with italics stressing the need for secrecy, the Department of Defense ordered its employees to withhold much of the information used to conduct the department’s operations from public release because of its sensitivity.

“If in doubt, do not release or discuss official information except with other DOD personnel,” wrote Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense.

It is vital, Wolfowitz said in the Oct. 18 memorandum, that department employees and persons in other organizations that support the department, “exercise great caution in discussing information related to DOD work, regardless of their duties.” He ordered them not to “conduct any work-related conversations” in common areas, public places, while commuting or over unsecured electronic circuits.

“Classified information may be discussed only in authorized spaces” with persons having a need to know and the proper security clearance, Wolfowitz wrote. Unclassified information may also require protection, he wrote, because it can “often be compiled to reveal sensitive conclusions.”

He said: “Much of the information used to conduct DOD’s operations must be withheld from public release because of its sensitivity.”

Wolfowitz, who made no reference to requirements of the federal Freedom of Information Act, stated that in the national emergency by reason of terrorist attacks declared Sept. 14 by President Bush, the “security of information critical to the national security will remain at risk for an indefinite period.”

(Memorandum on Operations Security Throughout the Department of Defense) RD

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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