Yesterday, President Obama issued an executive order on classified national security information that declared that “No information may remain classified indefinitely.” The order is “part of a sweeping overhaul of the executive branch’s system for protecting classified national security information,” which includes overturning a rule put in place by Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, that made it easier for documents to remain classified:
Moreover, Mr. Obama eliminated a rule put in place by former President George W. Bush in 2003 that allowed the leader of the intelligence community to veto decisions by an interagency panel to declassify information. Instead, spy agencies who object to such a decision will have to appeal to the president.
Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, was cautiously optimistic about Obama’s move, saying that while it depended on the implementation, “there are some real innovations here” that represent “a major step forward” towards rolling back government secrecy. Obama’s establishment of new National Declassification Center at the National Archives is expected to speed the declassification of “more than 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents” that are currently backlogged.