Access to Goverment Information at Risk, Warns Congressional Board
The Foundation of American Scientists reports today in Secrecy News that in a letter to President Obama, the Public Interest Declassification Board — created by Congress in 2000 to advise the president on declassification of government documents — warned that public access to government information “may be in jeopardy.”
“Our Board was heartened by your early statements and actions on openness in Government,” wrote the board’s acting chairman, Martin Faga, to President Obama on March 6. “Still, we have to sound a note of alarm about how well the Government is doing in this area. In fact, we have concluded that this fundamental principle of self-government is at risk and, without decisive action, the situation is likely to worsen.”
Members of the Public Interest Declassification Board are appointed by the White House and Congress, and Martin Faga is a a former director of the National Reconnaissance Office. In the letter, Faga identified a range of problems that warns are preventing declassification, including inadequate resources, coordination and leadership, and poor management of digital records.
“The rapid evolution and expansion of digital records in varying formats have severely affected the Government’s ability to identify and preserve important records and raised the real possibility that we will lose much of our history,” Faga wrote. “Future historians may find that the paper records of early American history provide a more reliable historical account than the inchoate mass of digital communications of the current era.”