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April 5, 2000

The Honorable Daniel P. Moynihan
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Moynihan:

Thank you for requesting the Administration's views on the proposed amendment to S. 1801, "The Public Interest Declassification Act of 1999."

The amendment eliminates objectionable provisions in S. 1801. As introduced, the bill created a Public Interest Declassification Board with restricted membership. The Board would focus solely on special searches. The Board would identify types of records that should be declassified and order agencies to declassify them. The Board would provide agencies with funds for that work from its appropriation in accordance with its own priorities. This arrangement created difficult accountability, appropriations, and legal issues.

The amendment makes the Board advisory. It expands the purview of the Board to all declassification efforts, not solely special searches, so that its recommendations will consider competing priorities. The Board's membership may now be broadly based. Importantly, this Board does not give orders or allocate funds. It reviews agency declassification programs and makes recommendations to the agencies. When the President transmits his budget, OMB provides a report describing the President's declassification program, priorities, and funding.

These amendments make the bill acceptable to the Administration. We believe that a properly selected, managed, and funded Board will make a constructive contribution to the President's declassification program. We look forward to working with the Congress to make any technical and other corrections that may be needed to perfect this legislation.

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