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At the recent conference on the Berlin Wall, the Director of the National Declassification Center (NDC) announced that the NDC completed the quality assurance review of the nearly 352 million pages that constitute the backlog of classified Federal records in the custody of the National Archives.  The backlog was a result of previous reviews of poor quality conducted under the automatic declassification provisions established in 1995.  Errors made during those reviews precluded public access. The President directed agencies in his 2009 Implementing Memorandum to review these records by the end of 2013.   During this review, the NDC used a sampling methodology that focused on identifying information missed in prior reviews concerning the identity of human intelligence sources and key design concepts of weapons of mass destruction.  The completion of this quality assurance review is a major step in making these records available.  The PIDB congratulates the National Archives, the NDC staff, and the staff from all agencies who participated in the exceptional task of reviewing these records.  This is a historic accomplishment worthy of recognition.

The mission of the NDC is “to advance the declassification and public release of historically valuable permanent records while maintaining national security.”  In creating the NDC in 2009, the President directed agencies to work more collaboratively with each other, streamline processes, improve quality, and develop standardized training to achieve this goal.  Conducting the quality assurance review of the backlog and implementing new processes to keep new backlogs from forming are two critical steps forward as the NDC works with agencies to improve declassification at the National Archives and across Government.  We salute your efforts thus far.

The PIDB, the NDC, agencies and the public recognize that challenges and impediments remain.  There is still critical work needed to address persisting problems that inhibit public access to these historically significant records.  Agencies continue to perform the same page-by-page, pass/fail reviews and use the same risk management practices (that adopt little to no risk) as they have for decades.  The way agencies implement Kyl-Lott certification continues to pose a serious obstacle to making records fully available, requiring cumbersome reviews.   A public release rate of just 61% during the reviews demonstrates that agencies still make too many unnecessary referrals to each other.  Additionally, many important series of records still require privacy and access screening before being made available in the research room.  Clearly, we need better risk management and process reforms to improve access.

Despite the recent NDC success, the NDC continues to need support if it is to continue its mission.   The way forward should include not only a prioritization plan, but also a commitment to strengthening and modernizing processes and technology at the NDC and agencies.  In our 2012 Report to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System, the PIDB recommended that the President strengthen the role and authority of the NDC.  The NDC already proved its worth through its backlog accomplishments – and our recommendations, if adopted, will build on that success.  Among our other recommendations is a call for a Government-wide declassification policy, led by the NDC, to implement a fully integrated approach to the review of historical records.  This action would eliminate many of the referrals now holding up public access to the records.  We recommended the piloting and adoption of new technologies and risk management practices to increase access to historical records and prepare for the upcoming automatic declassification of born-digital records.  With careful policy and process improvements, we also see an opportunity to provide greater access to obsolete historical nuclear information of our Government, a truly transformational reform.  These changes, and many others, will modernize the declassification system for the 21st century and greatly improve public access.

Prioritization remains a challenge and is of particular importance to the public and to the PIDB.   Meeting the December 31, 2013 deadline to complete the review of the backlog understandably took precedence in managing the NDC, but now we believe there is an opportunity to improve the way the Government prioritizes records at the NDC and across agencies.  The PIDB proposes the NDC considers prioritization as an important and meaningful step forward in making records fully accessible to the public, including younger records and born-digital records typically not selected for review.  We hope the declassification priority topics the PIDB is soliciting on our blog and that our upcoming report on our findings will produce a framework to assist the NDC and agencies in their efforts to focus their limited resources on making access available to those records most sought after by requesters.

The PIDB commends the NDC and agencies for working together and with great transparency, and under challenging conditions often not under their control (the partial shutdown of the government was one such challenge).  We recognize that under these constraints, many challenges still impede access to and the full release of the entire backlog of records.  The PIDB understands there is still much work to be done on the backlog and on newly accessioned records at the NDC.  We look forward to working with the NDC to build upon your accomplishments thus far.

Final Call for Topics

by on January 23, 2014


The PIDB still wants your suggested topics that you feel agencies should prioritize for declassification.  Beginning on January 27, 2014, the PIDB will begin compiling the responses and comments it received on this blog.  It will then use those ideas and report back to the public its conclusions and suggested next steps to assist the President in his goal of transforming the security classification system.

Please submit your ideas as soon as you can, but no later than January 26, 2014 to have the PIDB receive them before it issues its upcoming report.  The PIDB intends to share its report during the coming months and engage the public in more discussions about ways it can help improve the declassification process.

We thank all of those who have already participated on the blog and look forward to hearing more of your ideas.



We have already received many comments from our followers about what topics you would like to see declassified.  Today, we present you with a new  list of topics.  These topics all relate to records found at the Presidential Libraries.

View the List Here:  Topics Related to the Presidential Libraries

Like the other categories on our blog, this list of topics captures what we heard from Agency declassifiers, experts from the Presidential Libraries and the requester community.  The topics are listed in alphabetical order for each Presidential Library, not by ranking.

All lists will remain active for comment while the blog is live.  Please continue to make comments on this new list and also any other topics you think are important 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.



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.



We thank you for your continued interest in prioritization and for the many comments from our followers we have received about what topics you would like to see declassified.  Today, we present you with a new list of topics that involve information classified as Formerly Restricted Data (FRD) information.

View the List Here: Topics Re: Formerly Restricted Data (FRD) Information

Like our previous prioritization topics, this list of FRD topics captures what we heard from Agency declassifiers, experts from the Presidential Libraries and the requester community.  The topics are listed in alphabetical order, not by ranking.

All lists will remain active for comment while the blog is live.  Please continue to make comments on this new list and also any other topics you think are important 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.



On Friday, the President issued the Second Open Government National Action Plan (NAP) as part of the Open Government Partnership, a cornerstone of his administration.  I am very happy to report that the NAP contains the specific initiative, “Transform the Security Classification System.”  Under this initiative, the President pledges to implement reforms that will keep classification to the “minimum required to meet legitimate national security needs.”  He also reiterates his position that all classified information will be made available to the public through declassification once the need for secrecy has passed.

The NAP specifically references the PIDB’s report on Transforming the Security Classification System as a way forward to reduce classification and simplify the classification system for users.  It includes the primary recommendation from the PIDB in our report: to establish a White-House led Security Classification Review Committee to drive reform and oversee the vetting of the fourteen recommendations in our report.  We are pleased that the White House has taken our report seriously and is reviewing it in the inter-agency process. We understand Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco will be in charge of ensuring a full review. We look forward to a continuing dialogue on our report’s recommendations.

I am also gratified that the NAP specifically tasks the newly established Security Classification Review Committee to work with the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and Department of State to develop and implement a systematic review process for the declassification of historical information on nuclear programs (Formerly Restricted Data or FRD) that are obsolete.  The process will focus on reviewing specific events and topics of historical nuclear policy interest and include ways for the public to identify priorities for declassification review.

When the President tasked the PIDB with studying the security classification system and recommending changes for transformation, he clearly intended to modernize and reform the system to one that will function today and in the future.  We share the President’s vision of a security classification system that limits secrecy and promotes transparency whenever and wherever possible.  We congratulate the President and thank him for his continued commitment to open the government and reform secrecy in the interest of both the national security and transparency and accountability of government.



We have already received many comments from our followers about what topics you would like to see declassified.  Today, we present you with anew  list of topics OLDER than 25 years.

View the List Here:  Older Than 25 Years

Like our first category of topics 25 years old and younger, this list of older topics captures what we heard from Agency declassifiers, experts from the Presidential Libraries and the requester community.  The topics are listed in alphabetical order, not by ranking.

All lists will remain active for comment while the blog is live.  Please continue to make comments on this new list and also any other topics you think are important 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.

 



Join the Declassification Prioritization Conversation.  The PIDB wants to know what topics you would like to see declassified.  Today, we present you with a list of topics 25 years old and YOUNGER.

View the List Here:  Topics 25 Years Old and YOUNGER

This list captures topics we heard from Agency declassifiers, experts from the Presidential Libraries and the requester community.  To clarify, the topics are listed in alphabetical order, not by ranking.  Now we invite the public to comment on these topics and offer its own suggestions on what should be on this list of topics younger than 25 years.

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



The Public Interest Declassification Board continues to advocate for transforming the security classification system.  We now ask YOU to join the discussion about what the government should prioritize for declassification.  Make sure the PIDB hears your voice by commenting on our blog, Transforming Classification, today through mid-January 2014.

Please check back-in early this afternoon to join the conversation to make the Prioritization List a reflection of all our needs. 

In the coming weeks, we will begin posting this Prioritization List for public comment on our blog.  The topics on the list fall into one of five categories: Topics Older than 25 Years, Topics 25 Years Old and Younger, Topics Related to Formerly Restricted Data (FRD) Information, General Topics of Interest, and Topics Specifically Gathered from Presidential Libraries.

We ask for your comments on the topics as we post them, as well as any additional topics you believe warrant inclusion on the List.  We will post the first category of topics for comment TODAY following our public meeting.  We will post a new category with topics for discussion on the following Mondays: *December 2, December 9 and December 16. *(Date Change Due to Holiday Week)*  The week of December 16th will have two categories to discuss.

We hope the List will serve as a guide to aid agencies in reviewing the information the public wants to see.  This is your opportunity to spark a much-needed conversation about the sustainability of the current declassification system and what our priorities collectively should be to make the most impact.



The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) declassified and publicly released documents relating to intelligence collection under sections 501 and 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  The DNI has now declassified nearly 2,000 pages of documents since June.  The declassified documents include Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions and orders, reports to Congress on FISA activities, and internal documents from agencies on their FISA collection programs.

General Clapper began this effort at the direction of President Obama in June.  We congratulate the DNI for his leadership regarding this declassification activity.  Over the past year, we have heard from the public about its interest in documents related to the FISA.  Gen. Clapper’s decisions support our recommendations to transform the security classification system.   His declassification actions promote Government transparency and democratic discourse.  These documents allow our citizens to judge the actions taken by the Government on their behalf to protect our nation’s security.  The declassification actions also follow our recommendations to protect clearly defined intelligence sources and methods and to limit classification to only that information requiring protection for national security.

You may access more information about the declassification of these documents on the DNI website.

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