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President issues executive order on classified national security information

On December 29, President Obama issued a new executive order, “Classified National Security Information”.  This order will alter the way the executive branch classifies documents, reducing over classification and the length of time the public must wait to view documents.  The president also released a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies that explains how he would like the order to be implemented.

As the White House has stated, among the major changes are the following:

  • It establishes a National Declassification Center at the National Archives to enable agency reviewers to perform collaborative declassification in accordance with priorities developed by the Archivist with input from the general public.
  • For the first time, it establishes the principle that no records may remain classified indefinitely and provides enforceable deadlines for declassifying information exempted from automatic declassification at 25 years.
  • For the first time, it requires agencies to conduct fundamental classification guidance reviews to ensure that classification guides are up-to-date and that they do not require unnecessary classification.
  • It eliminates an Intelligence Community veto of certain decisions by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel that was introduced in the Bush order.

A thorough explanation of the president’s documents can be found of the White House website.

This is another step in the direction of a more open and transparent government and we will watch anxiously to watch as the implementation takes place.

Jessica McGilvray
Assistant Director, OGR

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