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Obama Expects Recommendations on Classifying Information Within 90 Days

Following up a Jan. 21 memorandum on government transparency and the Freedom of Information Act, President Obama Wednesday told the heads of departments and agencies that within 90 days he expects to get recommendations and proposed revisions to policies on classifying information.

According to a copy of the memo, the administration is considering 1) establishing a National Declassification Center that would "bring appropriate agency officials together to perform collaborative declassification review under the administration of the Archivist of the United States"; 2) possibly restoring the presumption against classification, thereby "preclud[ing] classification of information where there is significant doubt about the need for such classification," as well as increasing accountability for the decision to classify.

The memo also asks for input on what needs to be done to make it easier to share information, and to prohibit reclassification of material once it has been declassified.

"[M]y Administration is committed to operating with an unprecedented level of openness," said the president in the memo. "While the Government must be able to prevent the public disclosure of information where such disclosure would compromise the privacy of American citizens, national security, or other legitimate interests, 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."