Policy and News Updates for September 11, 2006

Policy Updates

[updated] Reclassified records to go back on the shelves

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) expects the majority of withdrawn records to be accessible to the public again after agencies finish their reviews of reclassified materials, according the Archivist of the United States. In April, the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) completed an audit of NARA’s secret reclassification program. The audit found that nearly one-third of reclassified records were wrongly removed from the shelves. To avoid a similar withdrawal of records in the future, NARA established a new program, the National Declassification Initiative (NDI), to address improving declassification policies and procedures.
Status: An interagency executive steering group has been established to ensure the NDI’s success.

Sources: National Archives Press Release [thanks to Secrecy News]; Reclassification of documents leads to investigation [OpenTheGovernment.org’s Policy and News Updates for May 3, 2006]

[updated] Congress agrees on transparency bill; Secret holds still allowed

Late last week, the House and Senate agreed on transparency legislation to require the Administration to establish searchable databases for both grants and contracts. The Senate version on the bill, S. 2590, passed the Senate on September 7 after Sens. Stevens (R-AK) and Byrd (D- WV) lifted their secret holds on the bill. Attention by bloggers drew criticism to secret holds, but a resolution to ban secret holds by Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), added to the original Senate ethics bill by a vote of 84-13, will likely not move in the Senate.

Status: House Majority Leader Boehner (R-OH) plans to schedule the agreed-upon language for House floor consideration this week.

Sources: S. 2590 [Thomas]; H.R. 5060 (House version) [Thomas]; Sen. Coburn’s press release; Senate Tradition Trumps Transparency: ‘Secret Holds’ Could Continue [CQ Today- subscription required]

News from Coalition Partners and Others

National call-in day to stop warantless spying
September 5-18, 2006: National Call-in to Congress about legislation that would permit secret communications surveillance to continue, immune from oversight by the courts and Congress.
See Bill of Rights Defense Committee for more information.