Goodlatte on WikiLeaks: Stop Overclassifying

Brent Finnegan -- December 16th, 2010

The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony Thursday on constitutional issues raised by the most recent infodump released by WikiLeaks.

In what has been described as a “surprisingly subdued” hearing, several legal experts, including Ralph Nader, criticized the “rampant overclassification” of government documents. This problem was brought to the attention of the committee following the recent leak of more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables to whistleblower site WikiLeaks. (Note: as of Dec. 28, 2010, only 1,942 of the cables have actually been released to newspapers.)

Harrisonburg’s congressional representative, Bob Goodlatte, agreed with several of the witnesses on the problem of unnecessarily classifying certain information that did not need to be made secret.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a House Judiciary Committee member, argued for the reclassification of government documents, releasing more information to the public. Goodlatte asked the panel of experts for ideas Congress can apply to reclassifying documents, a job typically done by the executive branch. (Read more at Neon Tommy)

Bob Goodlatte C-SPAN

Bob Goodlatte speaks during WikiLeaks hearing on C-SPAN Thursday.

“The lack of security safeguards for protecting classified material is stunningly poor,” Goodlatte said during the hearing. “There are, without a doubt, many things that are classified that should not be. We have a problem with out-of-control expansion of what are being deemed secrets, and for reasons that are not legitimate. [This is] somebody wanting to do a little CYA instead of actually protecting the national interest of the United States.”

Nader responded to Goodlatte’s request for solutions from the panel by suggesting a review of now-declassified, formerly secret documents. “There are so many things that have been declassified later or leaked that were absurd,” Nader said.

It’s unlikely that there exists much common ground between Nader and Goodlatte, but on the issue of overclassification, they seem to be in agreement. “We want to make sure we are not suppressing information that should be made public,” Goodlatte said.

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