Task Force Report on “Sensitive But Unclassified Information” Released

On December 15, the Presidential Interagency Task Force on Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) released a report recommending a single, standardized framework for marking, safeguarding and disseminating sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information across the federal government. SBU information refers collectively to the various designations for documents and information that are sufficiently sensitive to warrant some level of protection but that do not meet

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the standards for classification.

The Task Force report proposes 40 actions intended to mitigate current inconsistencies among SBU information policies in federal agencies by simplifying and consolidating procedures—intended to enhance standardization, information sharing, government transparency, and protection of information only where there is a compelling requirement to do so. The recommendations also seek to balance the imperatives of protecting legitimate security, law enforcement, privacy and civil liberties interests.

The Task Force was directed to review the ongoing efforts of the CUI Council, which was established by a 2008 Presidential Memorandum, and its ongoing efforts to establish a CUI Framework for terrorism-related information. One significant recommendation in the report would expand the scope of the CUI Framework to the designation, marking, safeguarding and dissemination of all SBU information.

There are more than 100 different SBU markings and handling procedures currently in use across the federal government. The report recommends that all SBU markings be replaced with one, simplified set of markings—”CUI”—which will be standardized under the CUI Framework. Additional recommendations include simplifying the definition of CUI; clarifying that CUI markings have no bearing on releases either under the Freedom of Information Act or to Congress; and phasing in implementation of the expanded scope of the CUI Framework.

President Obama initiated the review on May 27 with a Presidential Memorandum directing Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder to lead a 90-day review of current procedures for categorizing and sharing SBU information. If implemented, the recommendations would revise the 2008 Presidential Memorandum that established the CUI Framework for handling and disseminating CUI information.

The Task Force, which involved senior representatives from 12 federal agencies, met with representatives both within and outside the information sharing environment; state, local and tribal partners; privacy and open government organizations; and members of Congress. The Task Force also analyzed previous studies of SBU and the efforts of the CUI Council.