Spain moves to replace Franco regime Offical Secrets Law

MADRID (AP) — The Spanish government unveiled a proposed new Official Secrets Law on Monday, the first since the country returned to democracy in 1978.

The current law was enacted in 1968, under late dictator Gen. Francisco Franco, and allowed for classified information to be kept secret forever if necessary.

Under the new proposal, declassification terms range from four to 50 years, depending on the category. In some cases, they could be extended 10 more years.

Four levels of protection for information are set, aligning Spain with NATO and European Union standards. They are restricted, confidential, secret and top secret.

Up to now, the Defense Ministry was in charge of classifying secrets but this task would now pass to the Ministry for the Presidency.

Judges would have to seek Supreme Court permission to have a secrecy order lifted on a documents necessary in a court case, instead of sending the petition to the government.

The final decision on whether to release the top secret information would remain in the hands of the government. Information ranked as restricted, confidential or secret could be reclassified by ministers and other high-ranked officials, including military authorities. The new legislation follows on a promise by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez after a scandal that was triggered by revelations that independence-minded Catalan politicians had been spied on with powerful and controversial spyware sold only to government agencies.

The bill still must be debated in Parliament, where it could be subjected to changes.