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Spain Set to Replace Franco Regime’s Official Secrets Law


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MADRID — The Spanish government on Monday unveiled a new Official Secrets Bill, the first since the country returned to democracy in 1978.

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

Under the new proposal, decommissioning durations range from four to 50 years, depending on the category. In some cases, they could be extended for another 10 years.

Four levels of information protection are defined, aligning Spain with NATO and European Union standards. They are Restricted, Confidential, Secret and Top Secret.

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

Judges should seek permission from the Supreme Court to lift a confidentiality order on a document needed in a court case, instead of sending the petition to the government.

The final decision on whether or not to release top secret information would rest with the government. Information classified as restricted, confidential or secret could be reclassified by ministers and other senior officials, including military authorities. The new legislation follows a promise by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez after a scandal sparked by revelations that pro-independence Catalan politicians had been spied on with powerful and controversial spyware sold only to government agencies.

The bill still needs to be debated in parliament, where it could be subject to amendments.

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