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Obama lifts veil of secrecy on some documents

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From Boston.com:

President Obama late today announced he had signed an executive order to expand access to classified government documents.

"I expect that the order will produce measurable progress towards greater openness and transparency in the government’s classification and declassification programs while protecting the government’s legitimate interests," Obama said in a statement.

The order expands public access to declassified records and limits the ability of government officials to classify information "Top Secret" or "Confidential." The full order is below.

The Justice Department on Sept. 23 announced steps to make it more difficult for the government to claim it must withhold state secrets to protect national security.

Despite the order, Obama will still keep under wraps millions of pages of military and intelligence documents that were scheduled to be declassified by the end of the year until the end of 2013.

As the Globe reported in late November: "The missed deadline spells trouble for the White House’s promises to introduce an era of government openness, say advocates, who believe that releasing historical information enforces a key check on government behavior. They cite as an example the abuses by the Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War, including domestic spying and assassinations of foreign officials, that were publicly outlined in a set of agency documents known as the 'family jewels.'

"The documents in question -- all more than 25 years old - were scheduled to be declassified on Dec. 31 under an order originally signed by President Bill Clinton and amended by President George W. Bush. But now Obama finds himself in the awkward position of extending the secrecy, despite his repeated pledges of greater transparency, because his administration has been unable to prod spy agencies into conformance."

Full story: http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politi..._lifts_vei.html

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Hmmmmm...."...the end of 2013..."

Interesting that this coincides with the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. Coincidence? Probably not.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents could be declassified as the federal government responds to President Barack Obama's order to rethink the way it protects the nation's secrets.

Among the changes announced Tuesday by Obama is a requirement that every record be released eventually and that federal agencies review how and why they mark documents classified or deny the release of historical records...

Obama also reversed a decision by President George W. Bush that had allowed the intelligence community to block the release of a specific document, even if an interagency panel decided the information wouldn't harm national security.

Advocates for a more open government are cautiously cheering the move.

"Everything will depend on implementation," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. But the order "has tremendous potential to reduce the level of secrecy throughout the government."

In a memo to agency heads, Obama said he expects that the order will produce "measurable progress" toward greater openness in government while also protecting the nation's most important secrets.

"I will closely monitor the results," he promised.

The still-classified Cold War records would provide a wealth of data on U.S.-Soviet relations, including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the fall of the Berlin Wall, diplomacy and espionage. A Soviet spy ring in the Navy led by John Walker headlined 1985, which became known as "the year of the spy."

On his first day in office, Obama instructed federal agencies to be more responsive to requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act and he overturned an order by Bush that would have enabled former presidents and vice presidents to block release of sensitive records of their time in the White House.

The government spent more than $8.21 billion last year to create and safeguard classified information, and $43 million to declassify it, according to the Information Security Oversight Office, which oversees the government's security classification. The figures don't include data from the principal intelligence agencies, which is classified.

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