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Obama issues long-awaited declassification order

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  1. Freedom of Information
President Obama on Monday issued an anticipated declassification order and memorandum to agency heads that dictates no records can be…

President Obama on Monday issued an anticipated declassification order and memorandum to agency heads that dictates no records can be kept classified indefinitely during his administration.

"No information may remain classified indefinitely," Obama wrote in the order. "Information marked for an indefinite duration of classification under predecessor orders . . . shall be declassified in accordance with . . . this order."

As part of the new approach to the classification of government documents, Obama established a National Declassification Center housed at the National Archives and eliminated a Bush-era rule that allowed the intelligence community to veto declassification decisions made by an interagency panel.

"Somewhat surprisingly, President Obama did not merely amend that existing executive order, as his predecessor had done; rather, he issued a classification order that completely supplants the existing one," said a post on American University’s Collaboration on Government Secrecy.

Open government advocates hope the declassification center will speed up the processing of a backlog of documents that have yet to be declassified from previous administrations and lead to increased government transparency — a recurrent theme in Obama’s presidential campaign that has thus far led to mixed results.

"Everything depends on the faithful implementation by the agencies, but there are some real innovations here,” Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, told The New York Times.