Meanwhile, in the ongoing quest to hide deeds and misdeeds from the American public, the Bush administration has quietly (no surprise there) rewritten the rules that govern when documents will be declassified and released. Again, from the Washington Post:
The Bush administration last night issued an order delaying the release of millions of government documents and giving the government new powers to reclassify information.
The order, rewriting a Clinton administration directive, allows the government to delay until the end of 2006 the release of documents that otherwise would have been out by April 17 under a program of automatic declassification after 25 years. The government now has more discretion to keep information classified indefinitely if it falls within a broad definition of national security.
It’s getting awfully close to the time when the documents from the Reagan administration – which brought us many of the luminaries now back in office – are released to the public. But now, with this change, Bush’s cronies and advisors are safe once again.
In addition to the three-year delay in the release of information already scheduled for release under the 25-year automatic declassification, the order continues to exempt various pieces of information from future automatic declassification, including … information that would “impair relations between the United States and a foreign government.”
I can only assume that this means any and all information generated by the current administration. The man opens his mouth, and relations are impaired.
The White House released the 10,000-word order at 6:40 last night, making it difficult for experts in disclosure and government secrets to review the order. Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said the order “will slow the declassification process,” and “signals a greater affinity for secrecy.”
The Bush administration has acted to expand executive power and secrecy in a large number of areas, particularly since the 2001 terrorist attacks. For example, it won new protections from congressional oversight in a lawsuit against Congress’s General Accounting Office, and it has worked to tighten the release of historical presidential records and documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Bush has also won passage of legislation expanding the government’s surveillance power.
Thomas Blanton, executive director of the private National Security Archive, said the order keeps key parts of the Clinton reform but sends “one more signal from on high to the bureaucracy to slow down, stall, withhold, stonewall.”
“This is an administration that was already tending toward greater secrecy before 9/11,” he said. “Now, we have a war, which is the ultimate leverage.” Blanton said he does not believe the administration’s motive is covering up. “This is a matter of theology for them,” he said. “They really do believe in their hearts that we the people have made the White House too open and too accountable.”