Open Government Advocates Seek Input on Revision to Classification Policy


Press Release
Contact: Patrice McDermott, OpenTheGovernment.org, 202-332-6736

 

Open Government Advocates Seek Input on Revision to Classification Policy

WASHINGTON, August 2, 2009 – This past weekend, 21 public advocacy organizations and individuals delivered a letter to General James L. Jones, the President’s National Security Advisor, requesting that the public be given an opportunity to provide comment on the actual language of the proposed revisions to the Executive Order on national security classification prior to their finalization.

Decisions by our government to withhold or disclose information relating to the national security touches the lives of every American. On numerous occasions this decade alone, our nation has endured tremendous sacrifices in both blood and treasure, much of it unnecessary, and has witnessed the undermining of many civil liberties, as a direct consequence of decisions made in secrecy by our national leaders. In recognition of the costs of secrecy on our society, on January 21, 2009, President Obama promised the American people an unprecedented level of transparency, participation and collaboration in the workings of our government. On May 27, 2009, the President initiated a review of Executive Order 12958, the presidential order that governs the classification and declassification of information.

The letter to General Jones acknowledges the important opportunities provided by the administration to date for the public to submit recommendations for revisions to the classification order, specifically the efforts of the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) by hosting an on-line blog and by holding a public hearing. However, the letter notes that "such early input is no substitute for an opportunity to comment on exact revision language," the true measure of transparency, participation and collaboration in the workings of our government. The opportunity for public comment on such an order is not without precedent. In 1993, public disclosure of a near-final draft of the executive order on classified national security information elicited substantial public commentary and contributed to significant revisions of Executive Order 12958 prior to its formal promulgation by President Clinton. The letter concludes by noting the actions of the PIDB, which in its letter to General Jones of July 21, 2009, endorsed this recommendation and recognized the importance of giving the public an opportunity to comment on the final draft of a new or revised Executive Order before it is signed by the President.

The full text of the letter can be found at http://www.openthegovernment.org/otg/Gen%20Jones%20letter%208-1-09.pdf

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