Secrecy News

Declass Board Tells Obama Openness is “At Risk”

In a new letter to President Obama, the Public Interest Declassification Board warned that reliable public access to government information, the very foundation of representative democracy, may be in jeopardy.

Although “our Board was heartened by your early statements and actions on openness in Government,” wrote Board acting chairman Martin Faga to the President on March 6, “we have to sound a note of alarm about how well the Government is doing in this area.”

“In fact, we have concluded that this fundamental principle of self-government” — that is, citizen access to information about Government — “is at risk and, without decisive action, the situation is likely to worsen.”

The Public Interest Declassification Board was established by Congress in 2000 to advise the president on declassification policy and practice.  Board members are appointed by the White House and Congress.

Mr. Faga, a former director of the National Reconnaissance Office, identified several structural and procedural factors that he said impede declassification, including inadequate resources, coordination and leadership, as well as poor management of digital records.  “Future historians may find that the paper records of early American history provide a more reliable historical account than the inchoate mass of digital communications of the current era.”

Although the Board’s mission focuses on declassification of historical records, the Board has also taken an interest in classification policy and has called for a revision to the executive order on classification.

“Serious attention to the classification process itself is needed to ensure that it supports declassification and to address the particularly challenging and long-standing issue of over-classification,” the Board’s letter said.

A presidential directive initiating a revision of the executive order on classification policy is believed to be imminent.

0 thoughts on “Declass Board Tells Obama Openness is “At Risk”

  1. So this board was established in 2000. Well it would seem that all the stone-walling and classification issues that dogged the Bush administration were somewhat of a problem as well. So let me get this straight this board which has seen Obama and his administration work for 60 days has already announced that they now see further problems? Well I can not say that transparency is a bad thing but I think a little parity would go well with this article.

  2. Isn’t that what declassification is about? To decide what to declassify? If its a security risk then don’t declassify it duh.

  3. Josh, you are an ignoramus. This is not about Bush or Obama; this appears to be conclusions that the board has come to without regard to who the president is. They then reported to the president, who just happens to be Obama in this case. It appears that you saw this as yet another slam on Obama, and you want them to give at least equal slam to Bush. I am not really a big Bush fan, but I think that this little office, even if they had intended this to slam Obama, would not even show up as a momentary blip on the radar of slams that Mr. Obama will see during the four years he will be with us.

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