Some action on secrecy p. 6

By: Editorial Staff ALMOST A YEAR ago, April 26, 1993, President Clinton issued a directive ordering a review of rules governing secrecy and suggesting a massive declassification program. The directive was greeted by almost unanimous approval ? at least by the press.
In May, a Joint Security Commission was chartered by the heads of the Department of Defense and CIA. Last week, Jeffrey Smith, chairman of that commission, delivered a report to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that calls for an overhaul of the entire security system, including classification of documents. It calls for only two levels of classification instead of the 12 or more categories now in existence. It is generally a good report.
Smith told the Senate committee that the central question is whether Congress should legislate the changes or they should be left to an executive order from the president.
Some members of Congress have thought about that also and have decided not to wait for the president. Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.) have introduced bills designed to revamp the system for classifying and declassifying government documents. Providing that they can get agreement on a good strong bill, we would prefer to go the congressional route to revise the system.
The report of the Joint Security Commission calls for creation of a Security Executive Committee, to be a subcommittee of the National Security Council, that would develop and coordinate security policy for the entire government. That would leave it under the influence of the White House. A suggested Security Advisory Board of prominent private citizens appointed by the president would not necessarily "ensure that the system is fair and balanced."
A new report from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press documents 151 actions in 13 months by officials of the Clinton administration "aimed at restricting access to government information." This suggests that the traffic in secrecy continues in this administration as it has in past administrations regardless of the expressed intentions of the head man to clean it up.
If members of Congress find the level of secrecy practiced by government during the past 50 years as outrageous and disgraceful as we do, let's get them on the record with strong legislation that will clean it up.


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