For the past week, the Declassification Policy Forum has hosted productive conversations about declassification policy and a National Declassification Center. Yesterday, the support staff for the Public Interest Declassification Board summarized your recommendations for the creation of a National Declassification Center. Although we ask for your continued participation in the previous topics, we turn our attention today to classification policy.
The 1997 Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy acknowledged that although some secrecy is vital, the best way to ensure secrecy is respected is for it to be limited. Limiting what the Government classifies is a particular challenge because the public cannot know the extent or content of what is classified.
Our current classification policy is set forth in Section 1.4 of Executive Order 12958, as amended. President Obama has directed the review of the Order, to include effective measures to address the problem of over classification. This may include restoring the presumption against classification where there is significant doubt about the need for such classification, and increased accountability for classification decisions.
As you think about your recommendations for revisions to classification policy, please consider the following questions:
How can the classification system be more transparent to the public?
What should be done to limit over-classification?
How would you further define the classification categories?
What should be classified?
What shouldn’t be classified?
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Jennifer Sims, Public Interest Declassification Board Member