FAS Homepage | Government Secrecy | Clinton Docs ||| Index | Search |


IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DECLASSIFICATION PROVISIONS
OF EXECUTIVE ORDER 12958
AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES [as of 1995]

Implementation of Executive order 12958 at the National Archives is primarily the responsibility of two offices: the Office of the National Archives and the Office of Presidential Libraries. The Office of the National Archives is the major custodian of federal records in the National Archives in Washington and will also coordinate the declassification of records in the Regional Archives. The Office of Presidential Libraries will coordinate the declassification of Presidential papers, records and other materials in the Presidential Libraries.

THE OFFICE OF THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES

The first step towards complying with Executive order 12958 was to compile as complete a list as possible of the classified file series in the Archives in Washington and in Regional Archives. We categorized each file series according to its level of sensitivity. Category 1 consists of records which agencies might want to consider for exemption from automatic declassification. They are records for which NARA has no declassification guidelines or guidelines which are inadequate to declassify a significant portion of the file. Category 2 is records which contain some information that could be exempt but not such a large amount as to justify a complete file exemption. These files will require some level of examination, but not necessarily a full page-by-page review. Category 3 are the records of least sensitivity, those records that we feel contain little or no exempt information. We have provided a copy of the list of classified records sorted according to these categories to all of the affected agencies. We have told them that we will not be claiming any file series exemptions as NARA is not the final declassification authority for these records.

On June 6, 1995, NARA hosted an interagency meeting to present NARA's plan to agency records officers and declassification officials and to request agency assistance. The final responsibility for declassification of the records in NARA remains with the originating agencies. NARA does not have the resources to review everything page-by-page. Neither does NARA have the authority to allow records in which there is exempt information to be automatically declassified. Therefore, NARA requires agency assistance to determine which records absolutely must be reviewed, to review those records which are beyond NARA's ability because of the level of sensitivity, and to confirm those series that can be declassified without review despite the possibility of inadvertent release.

In Atigust, we provided agencies a list of the file series proposed for declassification in fiscal year 1996. We plan to provide such a list to the agencies every year by August 1. We have invited agency comments on the chcice of records and on the placement of records into the various categories. We solicit agency recommendations on the priorities for review of records in category 2. We are prepared to provide work space and staff support to agency reviewers who wish to visit the Archives to conduct their own reviews. We are encouraging agencies to do so.

Our plan in 1996 is to do in depth surveys of the records We will declassify those records that can be immediately declassified based on the results of the survey. We will select a limited number of records for page-by-page review. Our selection will be based on researcher interest, the availability of Guidelines, and staff resources. For the rest of the records that we cannot declassify on the basis of the survey, we will develop case files detailing the type of information in the records, the potential exemptions we found, and the location and extent of potential exemptions. These case files will be referred to the agencies for their decision on whether to release the records without further review or to hold the records for agency review. If the agency does not take action, the records will be automatically declassified at the end of the five year period.

THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARIES

Presidential materials differ from federal records in that they are not ordinarily arranged in series that can be attributed to individual agencies. An agency's equities may be located anywhere within the files and will be mixed with equities of other agencies, frequently within the same document. In addition, the level of sensitivity of Presidential materials is much greater than the general run of federal record. Documents are often classified at the highest levels. Agency guidelines provided to the Archives do not allow us to declassify a significant percentage of Presidential materials. As a result, it is our opinion that the most efficient method of implementing EO 12958 in Presidential Libraries is for agency review teams to visit the Libraries to do on site declassification. We have been making our plans for implementation on that basis and have been meeting with agency representatives to arrange such visits.

We have provided copies of our finding aids to the agencies so they can knowwhat topics and types of information they will find at the individual libraries. We have identified the multiple equities that may exist in each file. We are prepared to provide work space and staff support. The archivists at Presidential Libraries have an intimate knowledge of their records and are able to give expert assistance to agency representatives in locating their equities. In most cases the classified documents will be segregated from the unclassified portion of the collections and can be made available on a topical basis.

For the first year of implementation we selected records that, because of their age or changes in geopolitical country situations, have lower security concerns and most likely can be fully declassified by on-site agency reviewers yet are of high research interest. We suggest that agencies review the remaining classified records at the Hoover Library, files on Southeast Asia, the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe at the Kennedy and Johnson Libraries, and files on Vietnam at the Ford Library. The Roosevelt Library proposes to review its remaining classified documents using agency guidelines. Current plans are to propose all classified holdings in the Truman and Eisenhower Libraries for on-site review in the second year. In the third vear, portions of the Nixon Presidential materials will be proposed for declassification review. The plan will be re-evaluated after the first year of on-site review and refined after receiving input from the agencies, researchers, and the affected Presidential Libraries.




FAS Homepage | Government Secrecy | Clinton Docs ||| Index | Search |