The new official secrets law will facilitate the declassification of documents according to their category and may affect all institutions, including the Crownwhile the commission of reserved expenses of Congress will be the competent body to channel requests for declassification.
The Minister council approved this Monday the preliminary draft of the classified information law that the Government plans to definitively approve in Parliament at the end of this year or the beginning of 2023, according to the Minister of the Presidency, felix Bolanosat a press conference and which establishes declassification deadlines ranging from 4 years to 50 years.
However, Bolaños has added that once the new law comes into force, due to the enormous number of documents classified since 1968, information may be declassified either ex officio or at the request of an interested person, provided that said documents do not go against the integrity of a person or against the national security of the country.
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“There is no classification of a document for life. There is a term maximum“, Bolaños stressed after stressing that there is also “no different regime for any State institution and the law applies to all institutions equally”, also to the Crown.
The minister explained that they establish four classification categorieson: tall secret, secret, confidential Y restricted and that the power to classify it as secret and top secret will be from the Council of Ministers, while the power to classify it as confidential or restricted will be from a range of authorities ranging from the ministers themselves to undersecretaries, secretaries of state or even directors of the National Police or Civil Guard.
The law for the first time develops a procedure so that the declassification is automatic when its term expires, depending on the category of the document, although in some cases it is extendable.
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The documents of top secret will be classified for 50 years and their classification may be extended for a further 15 years, while those classified as secrets they have a term of 40 years and an extension of 10 more.
The confidential will be classified between 7 and 10 years and restricted between 4 and 6 years.
Namely, The maximum that information can remain secret is 65 years (50 plus 15). Deadlines that are reviewable at any time by the same authority that has classified them.
Faced with criticism from some parliamentary partners who see these deadlines as exaggerated, Bolaños has made it clear that they are “absolutely reasonable and in line with surrounding countriesboth from the EU and the Atlantic Alliance.
“These deadlines are reasonable, reviewable by the authority itself and compatible with the most advanced legislation,” he insisted.
Another of the novelties of the preliminary draft is that a document can be classified on a certain, future or foreseeable fact, such as the end of a war or the death of a certain person, the minister has cited as examples.
The new national authority for the protection of classified information will depend on the Ministry of the Presidency that will enforce the normativewill advise the Government and all the competent units in the classification.
The law also regulates access to classified information to the deputies of the congressional commission of bills reserved that they will be able to access the classified documentation if the commission deems it appropriate.
It is regulated for the first time that any affected person can request the declassification of the document and can appeal if the authority does not allow it to the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court.
“The general rule will be that declassification is allowed unless it affects the integrity of a person or the security of the State,” Bolaños stressed, stressing that today a “further step in democratic regeneration” is being taken.
“An advanced, guaranteeing law that absolutely exceeds a Francoist norm”, he added after pointing out that the Government is open to improvements during its processing and trusting that it will have a “resounding” parliamentary majority.
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