Obama Refuses to Order Release of Decades-Old Intelligence Documents

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Millions of secret government documents are scheduled to be declassified at the end of this year—unless President Barack Obama extends the deadline like his predecessors have done. Reports out of Washington indicate the White House is hurriedly preparing an executive order that will postpone the classified material from being revealed in order to assuage various departments unwilling to part with their secrets.

Dating from World War II to the early 1980s, the documents cover foreign relations, spy operations and military activities that have remained hidden from the public. Agencies currently affected by the secret material include the CIA and the National Security Agency, as well as the departments of Justice, State, Defense, and Energy.
Under current law, classified material involving more than one agency and that is 25 years old or more is supposed to be automatically released. If President Obama issues his executive order, it will mark the third time the deadline has been extended. President Bill Clinton did so in 2000 and President George W. Bush in 2003.
Steven Aftergood, a specialist on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, wrote on the Secrecy News blog, “If the ‘automatic declassification’ procedures that were prescribed in prior executive orders are not ‘automatic’ after all, and if binding deadlines can be extended more or less at will, then any new declassification requirements in the Obama order will be similarly subject to doubt or defiance.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
New Executive Order Aims to Avoid Declass Deadline (by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News)
Release of Secret Reports Delayed (by Bryan Bender, Boston Globe)


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