President Obama issued a new Executive Order on ‘Classified National Security Information‘ which will alter some of the policies related to the release of classified information. The new Order replaces the previous Executive Orders put in place under former President Clinton and updated by George W. Bush.
The new Order makes the following changes:
1) No records can be classified indefinitely and establishes deadlines for documents that are exempt from automatic declassification after 25 years.
2) Agencies are required to carry out classification guidance reviews to ensure that unnecessary classification is not occurring and that the current guidelines are up-to-date
3) Some decisions made by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel can no longer be vetoed by the Intelligence Community
4) A National Declassification Center will be established at the National Archives
This move by the Obama administration appears to be an extension of the move towards ‘open government’ and ‘great transparency.’ Researchers and the general public have consistently struggled to secure the release of classified information, including information regarding the Cold War, some of which still remains classified. Under previous administrations, the Intelligence Community was often able to block the release of information that they felt could be damaging to national security interests.
The Intelligence Community has a long history of trying to protect sources and methods through classification. Organizations such as the National Security Archives, centered at George Washington University, use Freedom of Information Act requests to attempt to secure the release of classified information that could be of use to researchers.