Administration Issues New Rules For Handling “Controlled Unclassified Information”

On November 4, the White House issued an executive order (EO 13556) to establish a uniform policy for handling “controlled unclassified information” (CUI), which is information that is restricted from disclosure because it involves personal privacy, proprietary data, law enforcement investigations, or for certain other reasons besides national security. (Story used with permission of Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News)

The new CUI framework will replace the multiplicity of agency markings such as “sensitive but unclassified,” “for official use only,” and over a hundred more. By prohibiting the use of such improvised markings and by adopting a standard CUI marking which is subject to external approval and oversight across the executive branch, the new policy is expected to facilitate information sharing among agencies without fostering new secrecy.

CUI policy had been an open, unresolved item on the government’s information policy agenda for nearly five years, ever since President Bush directed agency heads to “standardize procedures for sensitive but unclassified information” in a December 16, 2005 memorandum.

Significantly, the executive order on CUI does not create any new authority to withhold information from disclosure. It limits the use of the CUI marking to information that is already protected by statute, by regulation or by government-wide policy. Furthermore, it requires agencies to gain the approval of the CUI “Executive Agent” before using the CUI marking on any particular category of information. And it mandates that all such approved categories are to be made public on an official Registry.

The President has designated the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as the CUI Executive Agent (EA). In this role, NARA has the authority and responsibility to oversee and manage the implementation of the CUI program.