Bills would give more access to DHS data

A subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee approved a series of measures today meant to provide more access to the Homeland Security Department's information and intelligence products.

The Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee sent the full committee a bill designed to enhance public access to government documents and a measure that would reduce the extent to which DHS classifies documents.

The subcommittee also sent the full committee legislation that would require DHS to make greater use of open-source data for intelligence products. In addition, it agreed to a bill that would give state and local authorities greater flexibility in how they use DHS grants to pay analysts at state and local intelligence fusion centers.

The following measures were sent to the full committee:

• The Personnel Reimbursement for Intelligence Cooperation and Enhancement of Homeland Security Act, which would allow state and local authorities more leeway in how they spend DHS grant money to support current or new full-time employees or contract employees.

• The Homeland Security Open Source Information Enhancement Act, which would require DHS to establish a program for collecting, analyzing and disseminating open-source information and intelligence. The bill would require DHS to share those findings with federal, state, local, tribal and private-sector officials.

• The Reducing Over-Classification Act, which would require DHS to administer policies and programs in coordination with the National Archives and Records Administration and state and local authorities to prevent the over-classification of homeland security information. The act would also require the DHS secretary to create standard classified and unclassified formats for finished intelligence products and publish them in the unclassified format whenever possible, assess technologies that could track the classification process and develop an implementation plan for the appropriate technology, and train employees in the department’s classification policy.

• The Improving Public Access to Documents Act, which would require DHS to implement the framework recently released by the White House and designed to simplify the process through which sensitive but unclassified information is categorized. It would also place limitations on what types of information can be designated as controlled unclassified information (CUI). The measure would ensure that the CUI framework is implemented in a way that allows information to be shared within the department and with state and local governments.

The bill would also ensure that CUI markings do not affect public disclosure of data sought under Freedom of Information Act requests. The DHS secretary would have to assess available technologies for tracking the CUI designation process, assign a department detail to NARA and train employees on the CUI designation process.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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