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Obama Launches Review of Secrecy Policy

By Carrie Johnson
President Obama this afternoon directed his national security adviser and senior Cabinet officials to examine whether the government keeps too much information secret.

In a memo, Obama acknowledged problems with excessive classification of documents kept from the public eye for years and affirmed that he remains "committed to operating with an unprecedented level of openness."

Obama tasked national security adviser Gen. James Jones to canvas executive branch officials about their procedures for handling classified information and to make recommendations about better information sharing.

The president also said that turf battles and technology continued to pose obstacles to dissemination of sensitive but unclassified national security information among federal agencies with their partners in states and the private sector.

To help clear the path, Obama yesterday created a task force to study that and related issues for 90 days, putting at the helm Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Government officials representing a broad swath of agencies will review procedures for labeling and sharing sensitive information to make sure that the needs of law enforcement, privacy and civil liberties "strike the proper balance," the memo said.

Obama also proposed the creation of a National Declassification Center to streamline procedures for releasing classified information, when appropriate, under the guidance of the Archivist of the United States. The broad initiative is in line with an executive order issued by Obama Jan. 21, when he promised to move forward with "a presumption in favor of openness."

Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, praised the move as a way to "set the wheels in motion."

"This is music to the ears of many of us," Aftergood said, "but the hard work remains to be done -- how to translate these goals into policies."

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 27, 2009; 7:01 PM ET
Categories:  National Security  
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?Ignorance is bliss?
If you can't stand the light, forget you can read... or write!

Posted by: kdbranam | May 28, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Previously SAINT had said, "... SOP handling of documents is to always declare them 'classified' unless there was absolutely no way to avoid it.", and I believe this is the way it should stay, with the old information.

During this time of economic unrest, the last thing the American people need are laundry lists and prodigous reports outlineing government scandles, coverups, blunders, security breaches, etc... Granted, there may be good things the government has done which has been classified, but good things don't draw readership or viewers. The media will have a field day with this.

Seriously, now is not a good time for government transparency at the level suggested by this article. Madoff was a man people thought they could trust with their money; the government is an entity the people think they can trust to act on their behalf. In both cases, public trust maintained and maintains the illusion of safety. While all of us know the government has engaged in shady business from time to time, let the past stay in the shadows.

Obama's business is in the present. If he wishes to run a clean ship on his clock, more power to him, so long as it benefits us. I'm sure his gesture (even if its political) of honesty and sincerity will even earn him votes in the next election.

The point: Sometimes ignorance is bliss

Posted by: archfixxxer | May 27, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness for this action. Read the late Senator Moynihan's book, I believe the title was Secrets, for a scathing critique of what overclassification does to our national security, level of government competence, level of corruption, and level of citizens' trust in government.

Secrecy is warranted in a limited number of cases and the ultimate copout by self-protecting bureaucrats in a whole lot of others. It should not be made the preferential, no-cost, career-protecting alternative that it is now. It should be a serious decision made only rarely. Again, I cannot do justice to the depth and range of his analysis in this short space, but the book stands up extremely well today. This redirection of policy is long overdue.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and incompetence and graft thrive in hidden corners. We can't afford that attitude any more.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | May 27, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

It may take Obama his whole first term, at least, to undo the damage BushCo did to this nation, but he's off to a good start and it gets better daily.

You conservative rednecks and whackos are just sorry your candidate lost the last election.

Posted by: Patriot05403 | May 27, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Obama is destroying the United States of America. I hope you liberals are proud. W

Posted by: sandynh | May 27, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Something else with the country is broken; but, Obama will form a task force to fix it. One day we find something that he likes about America--certainly in all of his years before the Presidency there was nothing he liked--wouldn't even wear an American flag or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I just do not feel better off than I did one year ago. Everything that occurs in this Administration is pure politics and pitting one group against another. It just seems as if Obama is already campaigning for 2012.

Posted by: Mindboggle | May 27, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse


Now let's start with Barry's actual birth certificate like the one the rest of us have or can get from the county clerk, his college grades and applications, his law school applications, letters of recommendation, and who did pay for his education, who were his Chicago political and financial backers? How did Michelle get those two very well paid jobs at the U of C and what did she do there? Who did she compete against?

All of the above are state secrets so far.

Hopium Dopium

Posted by: JoeDBrown | May 27, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

wishy washy obama

wishy washy obama

wishy washy obama

wishy washy obama

first obama says "HIS" government should be transparent.. release all..

then a week later says don't release..

then the following week.. release all..


hey obama.. do you have this much trouble making decisions in the morning?

"i want to wear my blue suit..."

"now wait, i want to wear my brown suit.."

"no, my blue.. my black.. my brown.."

i can't wait to see you in a STESSFUL SITUATION...

"attack! no.. retreat.. no attack! no.. retreat... hey hillary... who are we fighting again?"

hey obama.. can you say, "i'm a putz"?

obama; "i'm a putz."

very good!

clap! clap! clap! clap! clap!
clap! clap! clap! clap! clap!
clap! clap! clap! clap! clap!
clap! clap! clap! clap! clap!

Posted by: DriveByPoster | May 27, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Impeachment SHOULD be in Progress!

Unfortunately, the Dude who should be doing it has "Barry" O'Bomba-Nation in Nevada campaigning and Fund-Raising for him!

BOHICA America!

Posted by: SAINT---The | May 27, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Seems to me that for years I've understood that SOP handling of documents is to always declare them 'classified' unless there was absolutely no way to avoid it. The norm was secrecy and the reason was to avoid potential embarrassment, now or in the future. Didn't Dubya declare ALL of his Texas gubernatorial documents off limits and bury them in Poppy's presidential library? This will be interesting to follow to see just how much the notion of transparency is applied, if at all. The status quo is a powerful force.

Posted by: free9604 | May 27, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't he start by releasing Michelle's anti-whitey graduate thesis that's currently locked up?

Posted by: georgejones5 | May 27, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

"Bush" secrets, no doubt. Anyone honestly believe anything relating to the Clinton administration would be divulged? LOL.

Posted by: ktchvl | May 27, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

This is only about politics. Obama is all about politics.

The secrets to be released will only embarrass the past administration.

No current embarrassing secrets will be released.

Nothing about our enemies will be released.

Posted by: donbl | May 27, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

what a farce.

imo it was always obama's agenda to expose to our enemies whatever will help them defeat the united states. it is as clear as day imo.

my only hope is that we can prove obama is a usurper so that we can reverse these bad decisions of his... this is going south real fast.

hats off to some of you democrats who are finally seeing it for what it is and speaking up.

Posted by: ChooseBestCandidate | May 27, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

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