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Hearing On Sensitive But Not Classified Information (1987)

Proving that everything old is new again in terms of information restriction, I came across this title from my federal depository’s shelves:

Hearing on sensitive but not classified information : Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Thursday, May 28, 1987
by United States. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science.

I thought this part of the introduction was interesting reading:

The difference of opinion was over the means to protect this information. In general, the library and information science communities felt that sensitive material should be classified in order to relieve these communities of the burden of limiting access to information and determining which information should not be made available to foreign nationals or governments.

In general, the government and the defense establishment would prefer that the library and information communities exercise a degree of judgement in releasing sensitive data to foreign nationals in order to slow up the flow of valuable technological and other information to the East Bloc. Classifying much of this information would take time and expense for all concerned, as well as limiting the flow of sensitive information to all Americans.

In my view the information flowing to the Eastern Bloc couldn’t have been that useful since the Warsaw Pact imploded barely two years after this hearing.

In this hearing, Sandra K. Peterson of Yale University represented the ALA Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT). Her testimony begins on page 41 of the hearing proceedings.

Time constraints keep me from giving you most of Ms. Peterson’s testimony, but a key point was that the government’s proposed definition of “Sensitive but unclassified” was so broad that GODORT believed “Much of the information that the federal government collects compiles, produces, publishes and disseminates falls within these definitions.”

Towards the end of her prepared testimony, Ms. Peterson emphasized GODORT’s basic position which I believe they hold today. I know we do at FGI:

In summary, GODORT believes that unclassified government information of all formats should be accessible by the American public.

Hear, Hear!

Now if we could just make the SBU concept go away. Seems like there is more work to do.

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