Senate votes for re-review of declassified documents
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) in late May introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2000, mandating re-review of documents that have been declassified and released to the public under President Clinton’s executive order on classification which became effective in 1995. The Senate passed the measure.
There is no similar provision in the House bill to authorize national defense spending, which has not yet passed the House. The two bills would be reconciled in conference before going forward to the President for signature.
A summary of the measure released by Lott’s office says it “proposes a mechanism for determining the extent to which classified nuclear weapons information has been released by the Department of Energy.”
The “mechanism” described in the bill is a review “on a page by page basis” of all records subject to the executive order on classification for “Restricted Data or Formerly Restricted Data,” information defined by the Atomic Energy Act as confidential. That information is already specifically excepted from declassification procedures under the executive order.
The measure would amend an amendment to the 1999 authorization bill enacted last year. That amendment, written by Sen. John Kyl (R- Ariz.), called for a temporary halt to declassification review other than on a page-by-page basis until the Department of Energy and the National Archives and Records Administration could agree upon a plan to protect records made secret by the Atomic Energy Act.
The Kyl amendment only dealt with records which had not yet been declassified. The plan that the amendment required the two agencies to write became effective February 1.
Clinton’s executive order prohibits reclassification of records that already have been made public. It also provides for automatic declassification of most records after 25 years. (Lott Amendment No. 394, amending S. 1059)