Scattered around the U.S. Capitol complex are a series of Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facilities, or SCIFs, which are typically used to hold Top Secret information.
But today in these deeply secure settings are a series of unclassified documents—items dealing with the Iran nuclear deal that are not secret, but that the Obama administration is nevertheless blocking the public from reading.
The Obama administration delivered 18 documents to Congress on July 19, in accordance with legislation requiring a Congressional review of the nuclear deal. Only one of these documents is classified, while the remaining 17 are unclassified.
Yet many of these unclassified documents cannot be shared with the public or discussed openly with the press. The protocol for handling these documents, set by the State Department and carried out by Congress, is that these unreleased documents can only be reviewed ‘in camera’—a Latin term that means only those with special clearance can read them—and must be held in various Congressional SCIFs.
Most staffers were hesitant to discuss—let alone share—a number of these documents, even though they’re not classified, because they require security clearances to view. By mixing a classified document with unclassified documents, critics of this arrangement contend, important facts are being kept from the public just as Congress is deciding whether to support or oppose the Iran deal.
“The unclassified items… should be public. This is going to be the most important foreign policy decision that this Congress will make,” a Republican Senate aide told The Daily Beast. “This is the administration that once said it would be the most transparent administration in history. They’re not acting like it.”
“Many in Congress view the administration’s tactic of co-mingling unclassified documents with classified documents and requiring Congressional staffers to have secret clearances just to view certain unclassified documents as an attempt by the administration to limit open debate,” a second senior Republican Congressional staffer said.
No matter your stance on the nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration's decision to hide unclassified sections of the deal displays a clear disregard for the will of the American people. It's time we remind our federal officials who they work for -- it's time we call a Convention of States.