WASHINGTON,D.C. — Legislation that would establish statutory standards for the classification of information was introduced in both houses of Congress in early March.
The bills introduced by Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Dan Glickman (D- Kans.) would establish a presumption of disclosure, placing the burden of proof on those who would restrict access to documents, records and other information in possession of the government.
Deconcini said, “Around seven million documents are classified each year — about one each second for a 40-hour work week. I, for one, have a hard time believing that it is vital to national security to keep this information from the American public.”
Glickman said that it is too easy for information to be classified as “confidential” or “top secret” merely because it is convenient rather than necessary.
The bills would require that information classified as “secret” be declassified after 10 years and information classified as “top secret,” after 15 years. If an agency refuses to produce a document after its classification time has expired, an agency official must state in writing that the document continues to meet classified criteria despite its age.
Further, the classification of documents beyond 25 years would not be maintained unless they fell within certain limited categories. For example, if documents identify living intelligence agency sources, the documents would be segregated and reviewed for declassification after five years.
Both bills also provide for a review procedure of classification decisions.
(H.R. 3927, S. 1866)
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