Obama Enacts New Rules For Classified Documents

12.30.09 | FL News Team

President Obama has taken a step forward on his campaign promise to bring transparency to the federal government. While vacationing in Hawaii on Tuesday, Obama issued an executive order calling for a sweeping overhaul of the executive branch's system for keeping sensitive national security information classified. He said no government documents can remain classified indefinitely. Along with the executive order, Obama sent out a presidential memo to the heads of government agencies ordering them to complete comprehensive reviews of their classification guidelines on a regular basis. They will have to periodically declassify information that no longer needs to be kept secret to protect national security. Federal agencies now have four years to review a 400-million-page backlog of classified information dating back to more than half a century ago. The review is expected to result in historical documents -- including archives on military operations in World War Two, Korea and Vietnam -- being released to the public for the first time.

 Tuesday's executive order will set up a new National Declassification Center at the National Archives to centralize and speed up the process of reviewing classified national security information that may no longer need to be secret. Obama has also scrapped a Bush-era policy that allowed the director of national intelligence to veto a decision to declassify information. The nation's spy agencies will now have to make their case directly to the President. More changes could be on the horizon as Obama waits for the results of a study being done by his national security adviser on how to transform the security classification system.