Saturday, March 04, 2006

Congress to Investigate Reclassification Program

As a followup to yesterday's post, I wanted to point out a Washington Post article which provides some updates on the secret reclassification program used by the intel agencies until recently to make thousands of once-available archival documents off-limits to the public. According to the Post, Rep. Chris Shays, who chairs the House Government Affairs Committee's subcommittee on national security, emerging threats and international relations, will hold an oversight hearing to discuss the program on March 14.

Says Shays: "We are spending literally millions and millions of dollars to keep secrets from ourselves. We've got a huge problem." He added that "the suppression of documents that pose no threat to national security is indicative of a larger problem in which government secrecy is on the rise," according to the Post.

The report also follows up with National Archivist Allen Weinstein, who has announced a moratorium on the reclassification project. Weinstein said that halt would continue until an audit of the reclassified material is completed, probably around the end of April. "I felt that it was important to give people time to cool off in this whole matter. It's an effort to slow the trains down," Weinstein told the Post. He will meet next week with representatives from the intelligence agencies.

Weinstein's general philosophy about the reclassification process seems fairly sound: "Stuff has to be held back when it's important to hold it back, when you can make a legitimate legal case for not releasing it, not when you are going on impulse or gut reaction or just because you don't like something in some document." I just hope that he can stand up to the intel agencies, and I hope too that Shays' subcommittee can make some progress as well.


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