Thursday, May 28, 2009

Obama Wants to Know: What's Secret and What's Not

Obama has ordered a review of what documents are top secret and what can be declassified. His memo went out to national security adviser James Jones, Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano.
Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a private group that gathers and publishes declassified government documents and lobbies for more open government, applauded the memo.
"Sure, we could have hoped for the president to make decisions today," Blanton said, "but this is warp speed in bureaucratic terms." He noted that former President Bill Clinton took three years to revise the executive order on classification.
Blanton said the tasks assigned to the two studies and language in the memo make clear "the president's gut is in the right place. He's opting for transparency. This is about as clear a signal as you can get in a bureaucratic environment."
Among the tasks Obama set for Jones' study was to recommend whether to set up a National Declassification Center where officials from various agencies could work together on declassification of documents. Currently, there is a backlog of 51 million pages, scheduled for automatic declassification on Dec. 31, that have not been completely reviewed for release because the material had to be referred to as many as 10 different agencies for evaluation.
Obama also asked Jones to recommend whether to restore Clinton's "presumption against classification," that would bar classifying documents when there is significant doubt about the need for it. Bush eliminated that presumption Read the whole thing at AP