Obama: Dialing Back the Bush-era Secrets Rules

ABC News' Jon Garcia reports:

President Obama, in a move meant to show he's committed to government transparency, has issued a new executive order designed to take a first whack at simplifying the information classification system.

Foremost, the order limits appeals by agencies to keep documents classified and stops agencies from keeping documents classified indefinitely. It also sets a deadline: Agencies must clear a backlog of some 400 million pages of classified material by the end of 2013 -- and all documents deemed OK to declassify must be made available to the public by that date, too.

Obama has also streamlined the list of who can classify information and at what level and makes provisions to update and install technology to help the declassification board process materials faster.

Obama has often said he campaigned on making government more transparent and last May, while laying out his reasons for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, he also announced a plan for overhauling the "state secrets" privilege.

"I will never hide the truth because it's uncomfortable. ... I will tell the American people what I know and don't know, and when I release something publicly or keep something secret, I will tell you why," Obama said at the time.

"All too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us -- Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens -- fell silent. In other words, we went off course," he said.

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