December 29, 2009

Obama announces new disclosure rules

In an update to a story we brought you back in November, President Obama has announced new rules governing the declassification process of hundreds of millions of currently classified documents:

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.

While imposing a four-year deadline to clear out 400+ million currently backlogged classified documents, Obama also created a "National Declassification Center" in the National Archives to facilitate the declassification efforts.

The success of these reforms depend on how faithfully they are implemented by the agencies involved. Only through a coordinated and proactive effort do these reforms stand any chance of success. For too long those in power have favored secrecy over openness and opaqueness over transparency. Changing that mindset will not happen overnight, but I hope this directive will move them in the right direction.

However, as I've said much too often with this Administration, I'll believe it when I see it.