NARA Report: Most Executive Agencies on Track to Release Docs Over 25 Years Old





The National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) has released a report on the automatic declassification of 25-year-old documents of various executive branch agencies. Submitted to President Bush, the report indicates that most of the agencies are on track to meet the 31 December 2006 deadline, though a handful still remain at risk of coming up short.

The report states that an estimated 155 million pages of textual records await review by agencies for declassification, authorized exemption, or referral. In accordance with provisions of Executive Orders 12958 and 13292, with a handful of exceptions (special media, such as microfilm, audiotapes, or motion pictures, for example, are not subject to automatic declassification until 31 December 2011) any records that are not acted upon by an agency by the deadline of 31 December 2006 would be automatically declassified.

Of the 74 executive branch agencies that responded to ISOO’s survey, 28 agencies (or 38%) assert they do not to possess any 25-year-old or older historically valuable documents. Of the remaining 46 agencies (62%), 22 of them stated they anticipate being prepared for the implementation of automatic declassification at the end of next year. These 22 agencies only account for 39% of the total number of pages identified as being subject to automatic declassification. An additional 8 agencies, which account for 59% of the total volume of records, ISOO predicts most likely will be prepared to meet the deadline. However, for each of these 8 agencies there exists a large volume of material that has yet to be reviewed, with roughly 43% of their remaining records requiring some type of declassification action. ISOO is also concerned that 9 agencies may not be able to comply with the EO which represents 2-3% of the papers identified that are subject to automatic declassification.

The principle of the automatic declassification of historically valuable documents and records once they become 25 years old was originally mandated by President Clinton in his 1995 Executive Order 12958. President Bush also affirmed the principle in his 2003 Executive Order 13292, although he deferred the effective date to the end of 2006, so as to allow the agencies more time to assess their classified documents and prepare for their release. ISOO remains confident, based upon their report, that the executive branch will, for the most part, fulfill its responsibilities under the automatic declassification program when it takes effect at the end of 2006.




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