On September 28, Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein announced that he had “reluctantly” accepted the resignation of J. William Leonard, Director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO).
Leonard was appointed as the Director the ISOO in June 2002. ISOO oversees the security classification programs in both Government and industry and reports annually to the President on their status. ISOO monitors approximately 65 executive branch departments, independent agencies and offices. Leonard also serves as the Executive Secretary for the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), an advisory committee established by Congress to promote the fullest public access possible to classified materials.
Earlier this year Leonard and the ISOO were involved in a highly publicized disagreement with the Office of the Vice President.
In June, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee accused Vice President Dick Cheney of seeking to abolish the Information Security Oversight Office. The Vice President’s action was allegedly in retaliation for the ISOO’s attempts to force his office to comply with reporting requirements dealing with national security classification under Executive Order (EO) 12958.
In 2006, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) refused to comply with ISOO’s inspection and reporting requirements on the grounds that they did not fall within the definition of “agency” as set forth in Executive Order 12958. The Office of Vice President asserted that it was not an “entity within the executive branch” and thus exempt from having to report its security classification activities to ISOO.
In 2006, the ISOO sent two separate letters to the Office of the Vice President requesting that they comply with the executive order and allow ISOO access to their records, and both were ignored. In January 2007, the ISOO then sent a letter to Attorney General Gonzales requesting his interpretation as to whether the Vice President’s Office was an “agency” and subject to the reporting requirements of the executive order, and no response was forthcoming.
According to a letter from Waxman to Cheney, Executive Order 12958 is being revised. Leonard told the Oversight Committee that during the inter-agency review of the proposed changes, the Office of the Vice President sought to abolish the ISOO, and also to amend the EO to include a provision exempting the OVP from oversight. Leonard stated that the inter-agency review group had rejected the OVP’s recommendations.