Status of the Declassification of Presidential Papers and Records
Through the RAC Project, we have scanned over 5 million pages of records from the Truman through the first part of the Reagan administration for declassification review. To date nearly 1.5 million pages of completed materials have been returned to the Presidential Libraries, a substantial portion of which is now in the open environment. The RAC Project has proven to be an effective means of referring classified Presidential papers and records from decentralized archival repositories around the country. The RAC Project also contributes to the availability of highly sought-after foreign policy documents for agencies review, eliminating some of the long delays and high costs associated with individual Freedom of Information Act and Mandatory Review requests. In fact, an added benefit of the RAC scanning is the ease with which Mandatory Review requests filed through the Libraries can be moved from the central RAC repository to the Mandatory Review work queues at the appropriate agencies, eliminating the need for Libraries to package and send copies of such requests. The continued commitment to RAC demonstrates NARA’s flexibility and willingness to use partnerships and technology in finding solutions to challenges posed by classified records.
The Presidential Libraries and the Presidential Materials Staff work closely with the National Declassification Center to ensure that RAC referrals are prioritized for agency review. Under the auspices of the NDC, the Presidential Libraries prioritized certain collections that agencies need to review in this year, taking into account both the age of the records and the high public interest of some of our Presidential collections. Our prioritization plan for 2011 focuses on the key National Security Council files at each of the Libraries and includes the following collections this year:
- Truman – including all outstanding referrals. Collections include records from the Psychological Strategy Board, the President’s Secretary’s File, the National Security Council Files, and the Korean War File.
- Eisenhower – all remaining referrals. Major collections include Papers of DDE as President (Ann Whitman File); Office of the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs; Office of the Staff Secretary; National Security Council papers; the Dulles papers; and the Council of Foreign Economic Policy.
- John F. Kennedy – National Security Files including working files of McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. This is the primary foreign policy file of the Kennedy White House.
- Lyndon Baines Johnson – National Security Files including working files of President Johnson's special assistants for national security affairs, McGeorge Bundy and Walt W. Rostow.
- Richard Nixon Administration – Priorities include the classified referrals from the Erlichman and Haldeman Staff Member Office Files, the President’s Office File; and the Latin American Country Files
- Gerald R. Ford – National Security Files including the files of President Ford’s National Security Advisers Henry Kissinger and Brent Scrowcroft.
- Jimmy Carter - We have prioritized a portion of their National Security Files to include specifically the Brzezinski Materials; the Staff Secretary’s File; NSC Institutional Files, 1977-81; and Vice Presidential National Security Material for Walter Mondale.
- And finally, we have prioritized a portion of the Kissinger materials scanned from his classified collection at the Library of Congress to include materials related to China.
In future years, we would like to be able to prioritize the remaining Kennedy and Johnson classified holdings, additional holdings from the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations and Kissinger collection, as well as portions of our 25- year old materials from the Reagan Administration.
How have the Libraries worked to make newly declassified materials available to the research community?
Over the course of the last year, the Johnson Library released 25,468 pages under the RAC Project on an unclassified CREST system in their research room. The Carter Library CREST system contains over 175,000 pages and is available for research in their research room. The Presidential Materials Staff along with the Supervisory Archivist of the Truman Library processed and returned over 8,000 pages of RAC materials to the Truman Library.
The Presidential Libraries will continue to receive additional returns through the RAC program which will be made available to the public, along with declassified materials in response to mandatory reviews requests, and declassifying items using delegated guidance from the agencies. From time to time we will update you on the newer openings at the Libraries.