President Barack Obama has apparently issued a long-awaited executive order on classification that fulfills one of his campaign promises by setting up a National Declassification Center to oversee the release of historical documents. But the announcement, ironically, is shrouded in secrecy and confusion.
“While the Government must be able to prevent the public disclosure of information that would compromise the national security, a democratic government accountable to the people must be as transparent as possible and must not withhold information for self-serving reasons or simply to avoid embarrassment,” National Security Council official William Leary wrote in a blog post announcing the order.
Oddly, that blog post was dated and time stamped at 4:44 p.m. Monday but does not appear to have shown up on the White House website until a little before noon Tuesday. Adding to the mystery, the link to the executive order was dead at that time. Then, shortly after this reporter inquired about that dead link, the entire blog post disappeared.
Jake Tapper’s Political Punch is reminding us of Obama’s words during the campaign:
Obama has often said he campaigned on making government more transparent and last May, while laying out his reasons for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, he also announced a plan for overhauling the “state secrets” privilege.
“I will never hide the truth because it’s uncomfortable. … I will tell the American people what I know and don’t know, and when I release something publicly or keep something secret, I will tell you why,” Obama said at the time.
“All too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us — Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens — fell silent. In other words, we went off course,” he said.
Seems to fit nicely here too.