Change Watch: New Executive Order to Avoid Year-End Declassification Deadline

As we have noted before, though the government is now nominally controlled by Democrats, abuse of power by the executive continues unimpeded. One such abuse is government by fiat. Another is excessive secrecy. The two abuses amplify each other in a current effort to issue a new executive order designed to keep government documents of historical interest from being released.

"Development of a new executive order on classification of national security information is now proceeding at an accelerated pace," according to Secrecy News, Steven Aftergood's blog about secrecy, intelligence and national security policy for the Federation of American Scientists, "in order to preempt a deadline that would require the declassification of millions of pages of historical records next month....
There is an incentive to complete the development of the executive order before December 31, 2009 because of a deadline for declassification of historical records that falls on that date. Under the current Bush executive order, classified records that are at least 25 years old and that have been referred from one agency to another because they involve multiple agency interests are supposed to be automatically declassified at the end of this year.  (See E.O. 13292, section 3.3(e)(3)).
So we face the ironic prospect that the "pro-openness" Obama administration will relax or annul a declassification requirement that was imposed by the ultra-secretive Bush administration.
In fact, the whole process has become an awkward mix of exaggerated and deflated expectations.  The failure of the Bush Administration’s declassification deadline to take hold this year does not augur well for new, more ambitious efforts to advance classification reform.  If the “automatic declassification” procedures that were prescribed in prior executive orders are not “automatic” after all, and if binding deadlines can be extended more or less at will, then any new declassification requirements in the Obama order will be similarly subject to doubt or defiance.
The rest of the story: New Executive Order Aims to Avoid Declass Deadline (Secrecy News 2009-11-23)

See Draft Order Would Set New Limits on Classification (Secrecy News 2009-09-29)
Some general background on the national security classification system from the Congressional Research Service can be found in Security Classification Policy and Procedure: E.O. 12958, as Amendedsecred (pdf) (2009-11-03)

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