Officials warned against leaking classified info to media
ISLAMABAD – The cabinet secretary has warned the concerned officials against leaking confidential information — particularly pertaining to the federal cabinet decisions — to press or unauthorised persons, it has been learnt reliably.
A letter written by Cabinet Secretary Nadeem Hassan Asif to the high-ups of ministries/divisions and other departments on November 24, 2016 under the title “Leakage of classified information” said: “As a policy, ministries/divisions/departments should discourage visit of the press reporters/unauthorised persons to places where classified information is processed. Only the spokesman of the ministry/division/department should deal with the press carefully”.
He observed that instances of leakage of classified information including proceedings of high-level meetings are on the increase.
“In order to curb this tendency, it is imperative that precautionary measures are taken at all levels of official hierarchy for safe and secure custody of cabinet papers,” he suggested in the letter, a copy of which is available with The Nation. In order to improve security arrangements in the ministries/divisions with a view to check the leakage, the secretary suggested, on priority basis, prompt and proper action in case of breach of security.
“Open enquiries in the departments from where leakage to the press/unauthorised persons have occurred, be initiated and all those coming in the channel of processing of the particular information be questioned/penalised under the rules,” he directed.
He further said the federal ministries and indeed all other participants, privy to the information emanating from summaries/discussions of the cabinet or cabinet committee meetings or high-level presentations, are required to be most careful and circumspect in discussing/commenting on any aspect of the proceedings, publicly or semi-publicly, except where the press or the public are required under decision to be so briefed.
“Only members of the cabinet/cabinet committees should open papers pertaining to the cabinet and cabinet committees. They should ensure that seal on such papers is intact when they receive these papers. In case the seal is broken or tampered with, matter should be reported to cabinet division immediately”, the letter said.
The letter further read: Under rule 24 (8) of the rules of business, 1973, all cabinet papers i.e. summaries, agenda, minutes and decisions are classified as “secret”. These papers are thus dispatched as and when required, in double and properly sealed covers, with inner cover being stamped/marked as “To be opened by the addressee only”, in pursuance of instructions contained in the book titled “Security of classified matters in government departments”.
These classified papers are required to be returned to the cabinet division in a similar manner by the cabinet members. The letter said instruction 57 (g) of secretariat instruction, 1994 provides that no classified document of confidential or above security classification will be transmitted on a fax machine which is not provided with security equipment. “Transaction of classified documents through email, whatsApp etc should be banned,” the letter said.
The secretary also addressed federal ministers, ministers of state, advisors and special assistants, national security advisor, chairman privatisation commission, chairperson BISP, secretaries, additional secretaries, in-charge of ministries/divisions on the subject.