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Card Memorandum

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Citation Edit

Andrew H. Card, Jr., Action to Safeguard Information Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction and Other Sensitive Documents Related to Homeland Security (March 19, 2002) (the "Card Memorandum") (full-text).

Overview Edit

The Card Memorandum was a memorandum issued by Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff Andrew Card to executive branch departments and agencies.The memo contained guidance from the Acting Director of the Information Security Oversight Office, National Archives and Records Administration, and the Co-Directors of the Office of Information and Privacy, U.S. Department of Justice.

The “Card memo” cautioned that information possessed by the federal government which could be reasonably expected to assist in weapons of mass destruction development or use should not be inappropriately disclosed. Additionally, the guidance contained within the Card memo reinforced the need to protect sensitive, but unclassified information related to homeland security.

Critique of Card Memorandum Edit

While many observers agree with the objectives and implementation of the Card memorandum in order to lessen potential terrorist attacks, some critics have urged caution in interpreting it and the accompanying guidance which appears to allow agencies to widen types of information to be exempt from disclosure under FOIA. It has been argued that "Several of the new restrictions on information are not congruent with the existing legal framework defined by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or with the executive order (Executive Order 12598) that governs National Security classification and declassification."[1]

Some have questioned the authority of national security directives pertaining to sensitive but unclassified information or say that where Congress has statutorily prescribed policy contrary to information management policy prescribed in presidential directives or agency regulations, the supremacy of statutory law would seemingly prevail.

One critic of the Card memo cautioned that the term "sensitive but unclassified" may be "the most dangerous level of [[secrecy], because it was not defined [in the past] and there were no channels of appeal."[2] Similarly, others say that "no administrative mechanisms have been developed to allow those who disagree with the decision to withhold information to challenge the decision or to seek some remedy to the decision. To make this policy work, the federal government needs to develop procedures that will allow citizens the ability to disagree with the conclusions of the agency denying or withholding the information."[3]

References Edit

  1. Steven Aftergood & Henry Kelly, "Making Sense of Information Restrictions After September 11," FAS Public Interest Report (Mar./Apr. 2002).
  2. "Science and Technology: Secrets and Lives; Academic Freedom," The Economist (Mar. 9, 2002).
  3. Laura Gordon-Murnane, "Access to Government Information in a Post 9/11 World," Searcher (June 1, 2002).

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