- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

President Bush issued an executive order yesterday to delay the release of millions of historical documents for more than three years and make it easier to reclassify information that could damage national security.
Mr. Bush signed the 25-page order three weeks before the government's April 17 deadline for the automatic declassification of millions of papers 25 years or older.
Amending a less-restrictive order signed by President Clinton, Mr. Bush's action gives agencies until the end of 2006 to release the documents a wide gamut of national security decision-making, from military records to diplomatic documents.
Thomas Blanton at the National Security Archive, a group that works to get government documents declassified, harshly criticized a provision stating that foreign government information is presumed classified.
Under the Clinton order, this type of information was kept classified or declassified on a case-by-case basis.
"Making foreign government information presumptively classified drops us down to Uzbekistan's openness norms," Mr. Blanton said.
An administration official who talked to reporters on condition of anonymity said agencies needed more time to review the thousands of documents in the latest batch set for automatic declassification to make sure nothing is released that compromises intelligence sources and methods or disseminates details about weapons of mass destruction.
The order makes it easier for the U.S. government to reclassify sensitive information on national-security grounds, even if it already has been made public.
Mr. Clinton's order stated that if there is a significant doubt about the need to declassify certain papers, they should be released. Mr. Bush's order deletes this provision.

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