OMB Watch has published a report that explores the impacts of secrecy labeling practices within the federal government. The report, Controlled Unclassified Information: Recommendations for Information Control Reform,shines a light on how government withholds unclassified information from the American people and offers recommendations on how to balance the need to protect sensitive materials with the duty to disclose information to the public.

Sean Moulton, Director of Federal Information Policy at OMB Watch, said, "For too many years, the government’s patchwork of secrecy labels has kept crucial information out of the hands of Congress, the media, and the general public." Moulton added, "This report offers recommendations to the Obama administration as it seeks to rework the government's secrecy labeling system, and we hope the White House and agencies will acknowledge that Americans' right to know should prompt the disclosure of all but the most sensitive unclassified materials."

The report walks the reader through some of the aspects of secrecy labeling and explains technical terms such as sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information and controlled unclassified information (CUI). The report also:

  • Provides a brief history of secrecy labeling, including the origins of sensitive but unclassified information
  • Explores several critiques of information sharing in the secrecy labeling era
  • Explains efforts by the George W. Bush administration to streamline the secrecy labeling system through the implementation of a consolidated controlled unclassified information policy
  • Offers recommendations to the Obama administration on how to minimize the use of controlled unclassified information labels while still safeguarding sensitive materials


Roger Strother, Information Policy Analyst at OMB Watch and co-author of the report, concluded, "If done right, reform of controlled unclassified information policies could be another step toward instilling a culture of proactive, affirmative information disclosure at federal agencies. We all deserve to know what the government is doing in our name and to see the information it's collecting."