Issue 89, Spring 2003

President Bush has signed an executive order which keeps secret, for another three years, millions of government documents that were due to become declassified on April 17. The new policy amends a more open policy of President Clinton.

The Vice-President, for the first time, has been given the power to classify documents, joining in the privilege with other agency heads and the President. Historians are particularly concerned that the new policy makes it harder to document the actions of presidents and their administrations. Critics who had expected President Bush to enact a more restrictive policy, given his record on secrecy, were relieved that it preserves an automatic declassification process and an appeals panel which has overturned most classification decisions it has formerly reviewed.