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NEW: GENERAL TOPICS FOR PRIORITIZATION

by on December 16, 2013


We continue to receive comments and feedback on the topics posted on our blog.  We have a new list of general topics of interest to share with our followers.  This list contains topics of interest that do not fall squarely into one of the other categories we have featured on the blog.

You can view the list here: General Topics of Interest

The topics are listed in alphabetical order, not by ranking.  This list captures topics we heard from Agency declassifiers, experts from the Presidential Libraries and the requester community.  We still are seeking more public participation.

All of the categories are still open for comment and we invite your continued participation.  Remember, this is your opportunity to ensure the PIDB hears your ideas for prioritization.

Your comments will be posted as soon as possible.  Please review our blog’s Comment and Posting Policy for more details.  Thank you for your continued interest and participation.


Comments

Steven Aftergood December 17, 2013 at 8:56 am

Presidential directives: I would favor a new declassification review of the remaining Presidential directives from the Truman Administration to the present that have not already been fully declassified. (There are only a limited number of them.) This category of records is of such fundamental and enduring importance that it ought to be made available to the fullest extent possible.

Aside from that, I would encourage the Board to give focused attention to the possibility of a “drop dead date” for declassification of older classified records. This is the flip side of the prioritization question.

Records which are not prioritized are likely to remain classified for a longer period of time than they otherwise would in the absence of prioritization. But they should not be forgotten, or neglected.

Therefore, to accompany its prioritization proposal, the Board should also advance a recommendation for accomplishing the ultimate declassification of older, non-prioritized records in an efficient manner.

The Board should make an effort to identify the conditions under which “real automatic declassification” could take place (i.e. declassification without review). These conditions might vary according to the type of record, the originating agency, the age of the record, the composition of the record group, or other factors. Or maybe not. Maybe there is a cut-off date at which classification may be said to simply lose its efficacy.

If a bona fide drop dead date could be established at which the classification of some currently classified records would simply expire, this would be a significant records management achievement to complement prioritization.

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Allan Johnson December 19, 2013 at 10:18 pm

My recommendations for priority ranking of the “General Topics”:

1. OCONUS fighter-bomber Quick Reaction Alert (AF, DOE, Joint Staff, State, STRATCOM)
2. POTUS-Foreign leader Telecoms/Memcons/Secure Video Conferences
3. National Security Council meeting minutes/PC minutes
4. China
5. Camp David/Mideast
6. Panama
7. Declassification stamps that another government agency applied to the Truman Library’s Psychological Strategy Board Files during that agency’s review at the Library in the early 1980s.

[Reply]

Joshua Botts January 6, 2014 at 1:15 pm

I would like the PIDB to promote greater transparency about the U.S. Government’s past secrecy policies and procedures. Doing so would help the public understand how responsible officials have balanced security and openness in the past and demystify the operation of the current classification and declassification system. Many types of records could be useful in achieving these goals:
- interagency deliberations about revisions to past executive orders or presidential decisions relating to national security information;
- historical declassification guidelines prepared by various agencies both for internal use and to assist National Archives staff processing accessioned files;
- results of IG and ISOO inspections of various agencies’ declassification operations;
- administrative record of classification and declassification operations within the agencies;
- legal advice generated by the various agencies and the Department of Justice regarding FOIA implementation, systematic review, and/or responses to Congressional openness iniatives; and
- coordination with other governments regarding identification and handling of foreign government or international organization equities in U.S. documents.

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Douglas Cox January 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm

I just want to second Steven Aftergood’s comments regarding Presidential directives. Not only are they important historically, they also, in the view of the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel no less, can have the force of law equal to an Executive Order http://www.justice.gov/olc/predirective.htm. That is, as one court recently stated, these Directives can constitute a form of “secret law” which ought to give them priority. Like Executive Orders it is difficult to determine which are still in force and which have been withdrawn or superseded. Compare NARA’s intricate disposition tables for Executive Orders:http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/disposition.html – ultimately something like that is needed for Presidential Directives, but first we need them publicly available.

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Douglas Cox January 25, 2014 at 4:36 pm

While I think the highest priority should generally be at the top – President materials, NSC meetings, etc. – I also want to put in a word on the listed topic of Panama. The DIA has a collection of microfiche/film consisting of copies of Panamanian documents seized by U.S. forces in 1989 that are having their 25th birthday right now. DIA block-classified them Secret, which is contrary to current Joint doctrine (see Joint Pub. 2-01 “As a general rule, captured and acquired documents and media are considered unclassified unless they originated in the US and/or an allied nation and are marked as classified”). The fact that these should not be classified is further supported by the fact that the originals of many of these documents are also in U.S. custody in a warehouse in Georgia where they are not stored as classified documents). As “classified” documents, therefore, these should be low-hanging fruit. Moreover, not only are these documents of considerable historical value for all studying the Torrijos/Noriega period in Panama and U.S. Panamanian relations during that period, but they are also of importance for human rights/humanitarian reasons as they almost assuredly contain information on individuals who were killed or disappeared and whose families are still actively seeking information.

[Reply]

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