The Obama administration will unveil a new policy on Wednesday that will make it much more difficult for the government to claim it is protecting state secrets when it hides details of sensitive national security strategies, according to a published report.
Under the new policy, agencies will have to convince Attorney General Eric Holder and a team of Justice Department lawyers that release of certain information would significantly hurt “national defense” or “foreign relations,” The Washington Post reported, citing two senior Justice Department officials.
The new policy will take effect on Oct. 1, and has been endorsed by federal intelligence agencies, the officials told the newspaper.
“What we’re trying to do is … improve public confidence that this privilege is invoked very rarely and only when it’s well supported,” said a senior Justice Department official to the Post, speaking on condition of anonymity. “By holding ourselves to this higher standard, we’re in some way sending a message to the courts. We’re not following a ‘just trust us’ approach.”
The protection of state secrets claim was asserted dozens of times during the Bush administration, the newspaper said, citing legal scholars.
The article said the new standard is aimed, in part, at restoring the confidence of Congress, civil liberties advocates, and judges who have criticized both the Bush White House and the Obama administration for executive secrecy.
The shift could could affect a number of lawsuits, including those filed by alleged victims of torture and electronic surveillance, the Post said.