President Obama Issues Orders To Reduce Government Secrecy

December 30, 2009

Government Should Stop Suppressing Key Information, Says ACLU

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org 

NEW YORK – President Obama Tuesday night issued an executive order and an accompanying presidential memorandum directing executive agencies to make more information public when possible and eliminate unnecessary government secrecy.

The following can be attributed to Michael German, American Civil Liberties Union National Security Policy Counsel and former FBI Agent:

"We welcome President Obama's executive order and memorandum which have the potential to improve the classification system for government documents, and appreciate that the administration, in an unprecedented move, incorporated into its policies public input gained through an open meeting and weblog. Although some more comprehensive measures called for by the ACLU and others were not fully realized in the new order, it is encouraging that the president described the new order as just one step in a process toward establishing 'a more fundamental transformation of the security classification.' We look forward to continuing to work with the administration on this issue to ensure the government is properly protecting information where necessary, while ensuring public access to as much information as possible."

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:

"These documents rightly acknowledge that too much information is being kept secret, and that excessive secrecy compromises national security and undermines our democracy. We are particularly pleased that the president has eliminated a rule that gave the intelligence community the authority to veto declassification decisions made by an interagency panel.

"In a next step toward improving government transparency, we hope that the administration will now reconsider its refusal to release crucial documents relating to the Bush administration's national security policies. The CIA is still withholding documents about its rendition, detention and interrogation program. The Justice Department is still withholding the legal memos that supplied the basis for the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program. The Defense Department is still withholding the interrogation directives used by special forces in Afghanistan. The suppression of these documents deprives the American public of information it needs in order to evaluate the wisdom of government policy, to hold officials accountable for their decisions and to ensure that the mistakes and abuses of the past are not repeated in the future."

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