Thursday, December 31, 2009

Obama Declassification Order Lauded by Historians

Historians are cautiously optimistic about President Obama's Executive Order on Classified National Security Information. As reported earlier this week:
President Obama declared on Tuesday that “no information may remain classified indefinitely” as part of a sweeping overhaul of the executive branch’s system for protecting classified national security information.

In an executive order and an accompanying presidential memorandum to agency heads, Mr. Obama signaled that the government should try harder to make information public if possible, including by requiring agencies to regularly review what kinds of information they classify and to eliminate any obsolete secrecy requirements....

He also established a new National Declassification Center at the National Archives to speed the process of declassifying historical documents by centralizing their review, rather than sending them in sequence to different agencies.
According to the National Security Archive blog, "This process involved a level of public input that has never before taken place during the revision of an EO governing classification of national security information." And "as to the EO itself, well, it holds great promise for decreasing overclassification." Among the specific provisions, Obama's Executive Order "establishes, for the first time, the principle that no information may remain classified indefinitely and that information may not be excluded from declassification based on type of record. These are both important, given that some agencies have tried to argue that specific categories of documents, such as President Daily Briefs, can never be declassified, or that very ancient secrets cannot be declassified."

More info is here. The Executive Order is here.