It will be up to the two special counsels to investigate and weigh the handling of secret documents by President Biden and former President Donald Trump. But the current questions should not obscure an enormous problem that has been festering for decades and threatens national security, democracy and accountability: The classification system for managing secrets is overwhelmed and desperately needs repair.

Too much national security information is classified, and too little declassified. For years, officials have stamped documents “secret” in a lowest-common denominator system that did not penalize over-classification and made declassification difficult and time-consuming. For example, in November, a 2004 interview of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney with the 9/11 Commission was released to the public. It should not have taken 18 years.

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