January 23, 2013
National Declassification Center Issues Sixth Report
Report highlights assessment of over 361 million pages of backlogged classified records
Washington, DC… The National Archives National Declassification Center (NDC) has issued its sixth biannual Report on Operations of the National Declassification Center, covering July1—December 31, 2012. The report is online [www.archives.gov/declassification/ndc/reports].
Since its inception in January, 2010, the NDC has assessed the 361 million page classified records backlog at the National Archives. The NDC has completed all processing of more than 90 million pages of this backlog.
On reaching this assessment milestone, NDC Director Sheryl J. Shenberger noted, “The National Declassification Center is all about inter-agency cooperation, but in order to facilitate that inter-agency activity, National Archives staff first had to perform an assessment on all records series in the backlog. As of December 2012, we reached the 100 percent assessed mark in our progress toward retiring this backlog.To reach that milestone, our staff voluntarily worked extra hours, deciphering old, sometimes almost indecipherable notes in project folders; cracking open dusty boxes; analyzing their contents for potential equity and quality review concerns; and scrupulously capturing all significant data points. What a huge accomplishment!”
The NDC was established by Executive Order 13526, “Classified National Security Information,” under the direction of the Archivist of the United States, to coordinate timely and appropriate processing of referrals of 25-year old and older classified records of permanent historical value. The December 29, 2009, Presidential Memorandum accompanying Executive Order 13526 specified a December 31, 2013, deadline for making publicly available the declassified records within current backlog of records that have been accessioned but not yet fully processed for release.
The NDC’s main challenge is the requirement that all records either have a documented page by page review for nuclear weapons information as required by a law commonly referred to as “Kyl-Lott,” or a certification that the collection is “highly unlikely” to contain nuclear weapons information. Through expedited processes and inter-agency cooperation, the NDC has made significant progress in meeting this requirement. However, nearly 100 million backlog pages still require some version of page-level review, a “highly unlikely” certification, or additional documentation as to their Kyl-Lott review status.
In the last six months, the National Declassification Center:
- Hosted a public forum at the National Archives in Washington, DC. Speakers from the Department of Energy, Information Security Oversight Office, Central Intelligence Agency, Joint Chiefs of Staff and NDC addressed weaknesses in the classification policy that led to the Executive Order and Presidential Memorandum, processes the NDC is using to improve declassification, and methodologies for future government-wide declassification.
- Completed special declassification review and processing of records related to the World War II Katyn Massacre. This review effort, with help from other government agencies and in conjunction with work by other National Archives units, led to an expanded web release, detailed researcher page, and book, in addition to a September 10, 2012, press event with Members of Congress Marcy Kaptur and Daniel Lipinski.
- Prioritized the processing and declassification of almost two million classified pages from the Truman through Carter Administrations in coordination with National Archives Presidential Libraries.
- Continued to improve and streamline NDC’s data capture and analysis. The NDC Metrics Team provides end-to-end tracking for all NDC operations, identifying chokepoints in NDC processes and providing improved production statistics.
Ongoing NDC goals include:
- Finishing the quality assurance within the backlog, segregating those that remain sensitive for national security concerns, and making the remaining records publicly available as soon as possible.
- Providing special releases of specific historical records within the backlog based on requestor interest and demand.
- Providing declassified historical documents in a more timely manner by tracking all records from accessioning to their final availability.
Updated information on NDC records releases and initiatives is online at the NDC website [www.archives.gov/declassification/ndc]. Public input, questions and comments are welcome, and can be sent to NDC@nara.gov or the NDC Blog at http://blogs.archives.gov/ndc.
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For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.