The Council of Ministers will this Monday adopt the classified information bill, also known as “official secrets,” which will give the Department of Presidency, Court Relations and Democratic Memory the power to propose the release of documents, according to government sources and reports from Europe Press. This function is currently in the hands of the Department of Defense.
The approval of the preliminary draft will come at the last meeting of the Council before the summer break, which will take place in the afternoon to allow Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to preside after his return from his trip to the Western Balkans.
Sánchez, in an informal conversation with the journalists gathered by Efe who reported on this visit, advanced the approval of the project, stressing the relevance that it will replace the law currently in force and that it “dates from 1968”.
The new standard establishes four categories of protection, in line with those of the European Union and NATO allies: Top Secret, Secret, Confidential and Restricted. Declassification periods range from four to 50 years for top secrets, depending on the category, and could be extended further in some cases, Moncloa sources said.
In this way, the department headed by Félix Bolaños assumes the power to propose the declassification of a document, a power previously held by Secretary of Defense Margarita Robles. In addition, the Ministry of the Presidency receives additional resources.
The final decision on the release of classified information rests with the Council of Ministers, at least the one with the highest degree of protection.
Oaks gave the green light
According to government sources, this bill has been reviewed by Minister Robles, who gave her approval of the changes introduced, although she removes powers. Moreover, according to the same sources, Robles told Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez that he liked the new rule.
In Moncloa, they think it is “logical” that this task should remain in the hands of an “overarching” ministry with “inter-ministerial coordination” like that of Bolaños, since there is classified information affecting various areas that go beyond defense. like industry and economy as they imply. This is the case in most EU and NATO countries.
They also argue with the need to reform this law as the current regulations are from 1968 and are therefore “pre-democratic” and need to be adapted to the constitutional order. However, it should be remembered that in October 1978 the law was partially amended.
The procedure for releasing information
Specifically, the law establishes a national agency for the protection of classified information – now vested in the President – with powers to ensure compliance, coordinate and assist each ministry’s units, and liaise with international agencies on the matter.
With regard to the release of secret documents, the current law on official secrets does not as such provide for an explicit procedure for its implementation. However, in its fourth article, it specifies that classification as secret or confidential “is the sole responsibility of the Council of Ministers and the Joint Chiefs of Staff within its area of competence”.
And in the seventh article it is explained that “the annulment of any of the qualifications” provided for in the above-mentioned law “is initiated by the body that made the relevant declaration”.
In the appearance of Pegasus and in response to the PMV
Sánchez announced that he would introduce a reform of this law in the Congress of Deputies on May 26, during his speech to report on the Pegasus espionage case, which affected the Catalan pro-independence leaders, among others. On that day, he also assured that he would implement a reform of the National Intelligence Center (CNI) regulation law to increase its control. Just a few days earlier, he had fired the center’s director, Paz Esteban.
Back in July, during his intervention in the State of the Union debate, Sánchez promised to submit the bill to the Council of Ministers later this month. He made the announcement while it was his turn to respond to PNV spokesman in Congress Aitor Esteban.
The PNV is the author of the reform of the Law on Official Secrets of 68, which Congress, with the support of the PSOE, wanted to implement at the beginning of the legislature. However, the bill was blocked in the chamber for nearly two years, and the government decided to consider it buried and move forward with reform through a bill.