Secrecy News

New Executive Order Awaits Presidential Decision

A new draft executive order on national security classification and declassification policy is expected to be presented to President Obama this week for his personal resolution of issues which remain in dispute among policymakers and affected agencies, especially intelligence agencies.

This marks the first time since the first Bush Administration, nearly two decades ago, that a President has needed to make a final determination on the contents of an executive order because staffers and agencies were unable to reach a consensus view. (Correction: There is a more recent precedent for such presidential involvement. According to Morton Halperin, President Clinton was presented with a “split memo” in 1995 on the question of whether to include a public interest balancing test for declassification in executive order 12958. President Clinton decided against it.)

The currently disputed issues are believed to include the composition of the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel, including whether it should include representatives of ODNI or CIA or both, and whether the intelligence agencies should continue to have the veto over Panel declassification decisions that was granted by the George W. Bush Administration.

The final order, which is likely to be issued before the end of December, is expected among other things to direct agencies to conduct a Fundamental Classification Guidance Review in order to eliminate obsolete classification requirements, and to establish a National Declassification Center to coordinate and expedite declassification of historical records, as described in a previous draft dated August 4, 2009.

See “Obama Plan Could Limit Records Hidden From Public” by Pete Yost, Associated Press, December 20, 2009.

0 thoughts on “New Executive Order Awaits Presidential Decision

  1. I have been trying to get the Presidential Daily Briefs for August 1964 for about 5 years without success. My request has been denied under appeal on three occasions. The most recent denial was submitted in January 2009 and accompanied by President Obama’s first executive order advising Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on “transparency” of his administration concerning FOIA requests. The information I am requesting is now over 40 years old and I believe that any value in retaining the original claissification has been obliterated by time.

  2. There is some reason to hope that the pending executive order will finally prompt reconsideration of the classification status of PDBs. You’re right that it’s long overdue.

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