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Obama set a four year deadline for declassifying documents going all the way back to the World War II era, as well as Vietnam and Korean wars. In the process of implementing this executive order, Obama cancelled an order given by George W. Bush that allowed the leader of the intelligence community to veto the declassification of documents so ordered by an interagency panel.
In the future agencies who object to certain information being declassified have to now appeal to the President himself. Because of course, who knows more about intelligence information, an intelligence official or Barack Obama? This statement from Obama’s Memorandum to agency heads:
I expect that the order will produce measurable progress towards greater openness and transparency in the Government’s classification and declassification programs while protecting the Government’s legitimate interests, and I will closely monitor the results. - www.rightpundits.com...
U.S. Reclassifies Many Documents in Secret Review
In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.
The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the Central Intelligence Agency and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton. It accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to archives records. - www.nytimes.com...
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Marcia Hofmann has a report card on transparent government measures undertaken by the Obama administration on its first day in office. The news is pretty damned good: they've reversed Ashcroft's restrictions on Freedom of Information Act requests as well as changes to the Presidential Records Act, and have adopted general principles on transparency and open government.
According to Obama's memo: "All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA."
This statement is almost certainly meant to address a controversial memo issued by John Ashcroft in the wake of 9/11, which ordered agencies to disclose information only after considering all possible reasons to withhold it, and assured them that government lawyers would defend their decisions in court unless they had no "sound legal basis." Many open government advocates believe Ashcroft's policy effectively gutted the FOIA over the past several years. Today's memo doesn't explicitly reverse that policy, but directs the incoming attorney general to issue new FOIA guidelines to agencies "reaffirming the commitment to accountability and transparency." This is a big step in the right direction.
The memo doesn't stop there. It goes on to say: "The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and down by their Government. Disclosure should be timely."