IG says EPA fumbling classified documents

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Watchdog,EPA,Kelly Cohen,Inspectors General

Environmental Protection Agency workers incorrectly classified information in some documents, with the same set of facts deemed both "confidential" and "secret" within the same report, the agency's inspector general has found.

The IG found the EPA fails to follow "national security information classification standards" — which include use of the levels "confidential," "secret" and "top secret" — and that the agency's classification guide is full of errors and inconsistencies.

In one case, a set of facts was deemed "confidential," the lowest rating for classified information, in one part of a report and "secret" elsewhere in the same report. In another case, data was marked "secret" in one place and was unclassified in another.

In another case, a classified document "contained numerical data that was incorrectly transferred from another document."

The IG also looked at a set of 19 EPA documents that had been derivatively classified — the term given to information that uses or includes material that had already been classified. None of the 19 documents completely met the federal requirements for handling classified material, the IG found.

Employees who were given access to classified information were also being trained with inconsistent guidelines.

The IG concluded that the errors found in the 19 documents make it "harder for those with access to each document to know what level of classification and safeguarding applies to it."

The declassification process also was found to have errors. The process is to take no more than 60 days, but a current request was found to be in limbo for almost a year.

The IG's office believes the EPA will be able to resolve these issues based on its responses to the recommendations.

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