Here’s some welcome news. Yesterday, President Obama issued a memo calling on his administration to conduct what The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder termed “a bow-to-stern review” of the government’s secrecy policy. The president tasked his attorney general and Homeland Security secretary to head a task force that will work to improve federal agencies’ sharing of unclassified national security information when appropriate. And he directed them to restore the Clinton administration’s “presumption against classification” that the Bush administration had ended. Last week, in a speech at the National Archives, Obama promised he would be launching a review of current policies by all of those agencies responsible for the classification of documents to determine where reforms are possible.
As DemocraticLuntz, after reading Obama’s memo, wrote on Daily Kos, “the goal is to declassify early, declassify often, and declassify in an efficient, orderly, manner, while still keeping classified those things which are truly necessary to be classified for national security purposes.” The Washington Post quoted Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists and Sunlight friend, praising 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.”
Maybe, just maybe, they are serious about “operating with an unprecedented level of openness.” We continue to see signs of it.