The promotion of a new official secrets law was largely intended to shed light on dark moments in the history of Spain, such as the attempted coup of 23F or the dirty war of the GAL against ETA. However, it is not clear that this will be possible, or at least automatic according to the preliminary draft of the Classified Information Law that the Council of Ministers has approved in the first round this Monday. As explained by the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, the declassification of the documentation that has been restricted before the regulation came into force will be left to the discretion of the authority that did it (the Government) and, in the event that it is denied , it will be the judges who determine if it is a reasoned refusal according to national security or the danger to the integrity of any person or if, on the contrary, it should be made public.
United We Can and partners of the Government charge against the new law of secrets for the classification deadlines
Bolaños explained that it is a “huge amount” of information that has remained classified since the official secrets law was approved in 1968, which the Government now wants to replace with one “similar” to democratic standards and EU countries. and NATO. For this reason, it establishes a “transitional” procedure for this information, according to which it can be declassified “ex officio” by the authority that reserved the information (as happened with military archives prior to 1968) or at the request of a person “who has an interest” in the information. required information. “The general rule will be that it is allowed unless it affects the integrity of the State or national security,” said Bolaños. “It is the competent authority that decides, if it is not reasonable, it will be the judges”, summarized the Minister of the Presidency.
State secrets that occur after the entry into force of the law [seis meses después de su aprobación en las Cortes] they will be declassified automatically in a period ranging from four years to half a century (which can increase up to 65 years) depending on the category to which you respond. There are four types of reserve, as is the case in the EU and NATO compared to the current two. What is hidden under the category of top secret will remain in opacity for 50 years, extendable for another fifteen years if determined by the authority; the secret will last 40 years (extendable for another 10); confidential (between seven and ten years) and restricted, between four and six years.
“These deadlines can be reviewed at any time by the same authority that has classified the document if it understands that it does not affect national security or the integrity of people,” said Bolaños, who has emphasized that the new standard exceeds a “Francoist vestige”: “From a current situation in which nothing is declassified, documents are declassified after a period of time”. In addition, the minister explained that the declassification of documentation may be requested even if the maximum period has not passed. In that case, it will be the third chamber of the Supreme Court that has the last word.
“The competence to classify as top secret and secret will correspond to the Council of Ministers, while the classification as restricted or confidential may be made by a list of authorities, among which are the heads of the Ministries, Secretaries of State and Undersecretaries in their respective Departments, and the heads of the CNI, the DSN, the Nuclear Safety Council and the General Directorate of the Police and the Civil Guard, among others”, explains the Ministry of the Presidency in a press release.
Bolaños has been convinced that the law on official secrets will have sufficient support in Congress, despite the fact that United We Can has rejected the approach of the preliminary draft that the Presidency has led with Defense and the Interior as co-proponent ministries. He has not convinced other partners either, such as the PNV, which has been the formation that has most vigorously defended the need to reform the legislation. The Basque nationalists propose that the information remain classified for 25 years with the possibility of an extension of ten. The Socialists agreed with this approach in 2018, but the rule they are now promoting is more restrictive. The PNV also stated that currently classified information would be automatically declassified. The PSOE then opted to give the Government a period of 10 years to declassify all the information that had been in the drawer for 25 years.
Bolaños has defended that the norm that has passed through the Council of Ministers in the first round this Monday is similar to those of the surrounding countries. Thus, he has recalled that countries such as Italy, Denmark, Belgium or Austria do not have any deadline to declassify the information, as is currently the case in Spain, while in Sweden the term reaches 70 years and in Germany 60.