Associated Press – Sun Dec 20, 4:46 pm ET
President Barack Obama plans to deal with a Dec. 31 deadline that automatically would declassify secrets in more than 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents by ordering government-wide changes that could sharply curb the number of new and old government records hidden from the public.
In an executive order the president is likely to sign before year's end, Obama will create a National Declassification Center to clear up the backlog of Cold War documents. But the order also will give everyone more time to process the 400 million pages rather than flinging them open at year's end without a second glance.
The order aimed at eliminating unnecessary secrecy also is expected to direct all agencies to revise their classification guides — the more than 2,000 separate and unique manuals used by federal agencies to determine what information should be classified and what no longer needs that protection. The manuals form the foundation of the government's classification system.