On October 12, 2011, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs held an important hearing entitled Ten Years After 9/11: A Status Report on Information Sharing. In response to the Committee’s request, Markle President Zoe Baird Budinger, and Jeffrey H. Smith, a longtime member of the Markle Task Force on National Security in the Information Age, submitted testimony on behalf of the Markle Task Force.
In the decade since the September 11 attacks, Smith told the committee, our government has responded to the threat of terrorism by transforming itself in important ways. Government officials work together in new ways, and the importance of information sharing has become widely accepted. While we have accelerated a virtual reorganization in how the government works against terrorism, however, greater emphasis needs to be given to the protection of civil liberties and the better management of information. The Markle Task Force testimony elaborated on these points, stating that:
The ultimate goal [of information sharing] is to change dramatically the way people in government work together across agencies by using technology and the best management know-how to direct human attention to the most pressing issues to facilitate collaboration and improve our ability to develop and act on intelligence. It is critical that in so doing, we protect traditional civil liberties. Done correctly, this can help address the problem of information overload and prevent future leaks while ensuring that decision makers have timely access to the information they need to make better informed choices.
The hearing took place a few days after the signing by President Obama of a new executive order that addresses structural reforms to the oversight of classified information. The executive order is a direct response to the WikiLeaks breach, which highlighted vulnerabilities in the protection of sensitive and classified information. According to a statement by the Program Manager of the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE), the executive order, “supports, codifies, and accelerates ongoing work—work that includes bolstering detection capabilities, restricting removable media, and strengthening government-wide governance, coordination, and oversight.”
The Markle Task Force testimony, while not assessing the executive order, re-emphasized the previous position of the Markle Task Force:
WikiLeaks is not an argument for less information sharing. Doing that would compromise our national security. The lesson from incidents like the WikiLeaks breach is that as we improve our capabilities to better share information, we should simultaneously deploy better policies and technologies to control its access and use. Security mechanisms, such as active audits that monitor behavioral changes and immutable audit logs, should be implemented along with dynamic permissioning and granular access controls, like the authorized use standard…
A Webcast of the hearing is available at the Senate Committee’s website.