Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Obama Moves to Declassify Records

President Obama has issued an Executive Order (full text here, synopsis here) to govern the declassification of government documents. The AP report on the order notes: "Among the changes is a requirement that every record be released eventually and that federal agencies review how and why they mark documents classified or deny the release of historical records. A National Declassification Center at the National Archives will be established to assist them and help clear a backlog of the Cold War records by 2014." President Obama has set a four-year deadline for the processing and release of some 400 million pages relating to the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, among other records.

The order supersedes Bill Clinton's 1995 E.O. 12958, and George W. Bush's 2003 E.O. 13292, which was widely panned by advocates of open government.

While the devil's always in the details on these things, and we will need to watch the implementation process carefully, this move is absolutely a step in the right direction - even the basic principle laid out by this administration that no document is to remain classified indefinitely is a welcome change from the previous rules.

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