Today, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Jim Risch (R-ID) introduced new legislation, the “Preserving American Access to Information Act,” aimed at reforming the security classification system. The bipartisan bill focuses on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the system while increasing transparency for users of the system and the public. In introducing the bill, Senator Shaheen said “Right now we are classifying too much information and keeping it for too long at the expense of taxpayers and transparency.” Senator Risch added that “the outdated classification system being used by our government is long overdue for reform.”
The PIDB is pleased that its 2012 study and subsequent Report to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System served to highlight the challenges facing the sustainability of the system. The bill noted the imperative for reforming the system so that it is able to adequately deal with the ever-increasing volumes of digital data that the Government creates. Several of the Board’s recommendations are included in the new legislation, including reforms to the operations of the National Declassification Center. The legislation also requires agencies to report to Congress on the feasibility for condensing the classification system to only two levels, for using “Short-term” classification designations for tactical and purely operational matters, and for removing “Formerly Restricted Data” restrictions on obsolete nuclear weapons information. We feel that these measures, if enacted and implemented, will reduce over-classification, improve declassification practices across Government, and allow for greater public access to Government records.
Senator Risch said “This bill is a reasonable first step towards a more transparent and effective classification system for our country.” We thank Senator Shaheen and Senator Risch for their interest in our report and for introducing the “Preserving American Access to Information Act.” More information about the bill can be found at: http://www.shaheen.senate.gov/news/press/release/?id=2a05ca25-5bf6-4396-840e-eba9a625182d.