Information Security:

Disposition and Use of Classified Documents by Presidential Appointees

NSIAD-90-195: Published: Sep 28, 1990. Publicly Released: Nov 15, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal agencies' arrangements to provide former presidential appointees access to classified documents related to their service.

GAO found that: (1) the Department of State's procedures and arrangements with the National Archives and Records Administration for providing a former Secretary of State access to classified materials generally complied with the regulations; (2) State corrected problems involving its inventory of top-secret documents, assignment of document control numbers, and unauthorized storage of classified documents; (3) the Department of Defense's (DOD) arrangements with the Library of Congress for providing a former Secretary of Defense with access to classified materials did not comply with regulations and had several control weaknesses; and (4) despite control weaknesses involving a lack of documentation and who had the right to control access, there was no evidence that national security information was actually compromised.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Executive Office of the President reissued Executive Order 12356 as Executive Order 12598 on April 17, 1995. The reissued Executive Order contains revised language that clearly specifies: (1) under what conditions former presidential appointees may be granted access to classified information; (2) what information former appointees may have access to; and (3) what precautions the agency granting access should take to prevent unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

    Recommendation: The Director, Information Security Oversight Office, should issue guidance that more clearly specifies the controls needed over classified materials made available to former presidential appointees. In particular, the guidance should ensure that agreements for access by former presidential appointees do not include provisions that could compromise government control.

    Agency Affected: Information Security Oversight Office


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