ERIC Number: ED226388
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1983-Jan
Reference Count: N/A
Government Classification: An Overview.
Brown, Karen M.
Classification of government documents (confidential, secret, top secret) is a system used by the executive branch to, in part, protect national security and foreign policy interests. The systematic use of classification markings with precise definitions was established during World War I, and since 1936 major changes in classification have originated with successive presidents. Following President Truman's executive order to formalize a secrecy classification system for nonmilitary agencies, successive presidents through President Carter have gradually decreased the number of agencies authorized to classify information and have improved downgrading and declassification procedures, and promoted easier public access to classified information. Under Executive Order 12356 issued by President Reagan, however, documents now will be easier to classify; higher rather than lower classification levels will be applied when there is any doubt as to a document's confidentiality; and a balancing test weighing the public interest against national security will be eliminated, thus reversing a 30-year trend toward openness in government. The order continues the Carter policy of protecting basic scientific information from classification, but departs sharply from the Nixon and Carter policies by eliminating specific time limits for the declassification of materials. Critics contest the order on the grounds that it will increase, not reduce, government classification, and that classification is used more to hide political bureaucratic blunders than for national security. (HTH)
Publication Type: Information Analyses
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Freedom of Information Center, Columbia, MO.