Borrowing from National Security analyst Asha Rangappa:
Whatever POTUS’ “powers” might be to declassify docs, there are good policy and practical reasons for them to follow a process, and for that process to be documented and reflected on the document markings themselves.
The first one is accountability, which is indispensable in a democracy. To declassify a doc is to make a judgment call about its danger to our nat sec, and the person making that call needs to explain that rationale – so that those whom it affects, including public, know why.
Having a documented basis not only allows for objections from others if the reasoning is based on an incorrect premise (and will harm nat sec), it also allows people to see if there are specious or suspicious reasons why someone is taking these steps or overriding objections.
But there are also practical reasons. If someone is declassifying info that impacts sources and methods, it offers time to protect them or prepare for blowback. Remember when Trump declassified Russia docs? The CIA/our allies had to take steps to protect sources in advance.
Imagine the implications of not following this. Say POTUS, an OCA, secretly and unilaterally declassifies SIGINT, for example. He’s hanging out at MAL and showing it to God knows who. Meanwhile our IC, or maybe those of our allies, sees sources suddenly dropping like flies…
I mean, apart from being dangerous and bad for nat sec, it is chaos inducing, result in confusion and inefficiency and distortions in our intelligence collection, foreign policy, and defense efforts. It makes us WEAKER and less able to know what our secrets really are.
It’s also dumb. OK, so Trump telepathically declassifies hundreds of docs on his way out. Then guess what? Biden can telepathically reclassify them immediately, too. See how stupid this gets? Markings would mean nothing. No one would know how to store things. It’s idiotic.
But all of these practical second- and third- order effects really are less important than tweet #2: What was the rationale? What could POSSIBLY be the justification for declassifying our nation’s highest defense secrets? Sensitive foreign intelligence? Without notifying anyone?
She’s spot on.