May 10, 2023

Wyden, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Reform the Security Classification System

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden today with colleagues announced bipartisan legislation that would reform the security classification system to reduce overclassification, prevent mishandling of classified information, promote better use of intelligence, and enhance public trust.

“Public access to government information is vital to a democratic society. Yet, as has been the case for many years, far too many records are classified. And, because of obsolete technology, far too few of those records ever see the light of day, even after they no longer meet the requirements for classification. One necessary step in addressing this crisis is to put someone in charge of modernizing the system so that records are tracked and then declassified and released when appropriate,” said Wyden, who has spent years working to reform the broken declassification system, working with Senator Moran to press the executive branch for action on the growing deluge of classified documents. “This legislation accomplishes that goal by designating the DNI as the Executive Agent for Classification and Declassification, a reform that Senator Moran and I have been pushing for years.  It is also critical that the rules that govern declassification of records be updated and strengthened and that the entities responsible for oversight of the system be empowered.”

The Classification Reform Act of 2023 would undertake significant reforms to the classification process. Among other steps, it would establish a new system of governance and accountability for the security classification system. It also would provide that information may only be or remain classified where the harm to national security reasonably expected from disclosure outweighs the public interest. The legislation sets the maximum period for classification at 25 years, allowing only agency heads or the president to extend classification protections beyond that duration. In addition, the legislation also takes several other substantive steps that would improve security while expanding transparency, including by establishing minimum standards for executive branch insider threat programs and mandating a security review of presidential and vice presidential records to ensure that records bearing classification markings are not improperly categorized as personal records and removed from secure facilities.

Along with Wyden, the bill was led by Mark R. Warner, D-Va., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Jerry Moran, R-Kansas. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Bob Casey, D-Pa.

A one-pager is here. A video link to today’s news conference is here.