Bush Issues New Secrecy Executive Order
On 25 March 2003 President George W. Bush signed a 31-page Executive Order "Further Amendment to Executive Order 12958, As Amended, Classified National Security Information" (EO 13291) replacing the soon-to-expire Clinton-era E.O. relating to the automatic declassification of federal government documents after 25 years. With a handful of exceptions, the new EO closely corresponds to a draft obtained by the National Coalition for History and distributed via the Internet earlier in March (See "Draft Executive Order Replacing EO 12958 Circulates," NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE, Vol. 9, #11; 13 March 2003).
The announcement of the president's signing the EO appears to have been carefully orchestrated by the White House to minimize public attention to the new order. One press insider characterized the strategy employed by the White House as "advance damage control." The administration tactic managed to short circuit a repeat of the public relations disaster that followed the release of the Presidential Records Act EO in 2001.