NARA and Declassification

Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) - Recommendations and Reports


Letter to the President - Letter to the President - JFK Assassination Records

Letter to the President - 9/11 Recommendations


A Vision for the Digital Age: Modernization of the U.S. National Security Classification and Declassification System

A Vision for the Digital Age: Modernization of the U.S. National Security Classification and Declassification System

In May 2020, the PIDB published recommendations to support the vision for a uniform, integrated, and modernized security classi­fication system that appro­priately defends national security interests, instills confidence in the Ameri­can people, and maintains sustainability in the digital environment.


The Importance of Technology in Classification and Declassification

The Importance of Technology in Classification and Declassification” A White Paper of the Public Interest Declassification Board,

In June 2016, the PIDB published observations and lessons-learned from the in-depth study of agency declassification technology initiatives conducted by the PIDB Declassification Technology Working Group, an informal body with the support of CIOs, and represented by technologists from 14 Executive Branch agencies.


Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification

Setting Priorities-An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification—December 2014

In 2014, the PIDB published a supplemental report, Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification.  The supplemental report focused on topic-based declassification prioritization.  The PIDB makes the case for the government to adopt a centralized approach to topic-based prioritization and recommends specific policy and process changes aimed at improving access to historically significant records most sought-after by the public. 


 Transforming the Security Classification System 

Transforming the Security Classification System Report cover





In 2012, the PIDB published its Report to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System.  The report provided 14 key recommendations to reform the classification system so that it is more effective in the digital age.  The recommendations centered on the need for new policies for classifying information, new processes for declassifying information, and the imperative for using and integrating technology into these processes. 


Transforming Classification Policy Forum

On December 9, 2009, President Barack Obama signed a presidential implementing memorandum for Executive Order 12958, as amended “Classified National Security Information.” The memorandum tasked the PIDB with conducting a study to "design a fundamental transformation of the security classification system." 

​As part of its study, the PIDB established the Transforming Classification Policy Forum via a blog on March 14, 2011 to propose new solutions to the public that address the shortcomings of the current system and tackle the challenges of digital records.  For eight weeks, the PIDB posted white papers on the following topics aimed at addressing inefficiencies and increasing public access to classified records:

The Forum solicited discussion from the public on these topics, resulting in over 80 ​comments and suggestions for improvements to the security classification system.  These comments helped shape many of the recommendations made by the PIDB in its 2012 Report to the President, Transforming the Security Classification System.

The PIDB invited the public to submit its own white papers and received the following submissions:

The success of the forum led to the PIDB continuing its use of the Transforming Classification blog as a vehicle to solicit public comment about its study.  In November 2011, the PIDB began the process of soliciting topics for prioritization in declassification via its blog.  Over 150 topics helped inform the recommendations the PIDB made in its 2014 supplemental report, Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification.

The PIDB continues to use the blog as a means to engage with the public and solicit new ideas on transformation. ​


Response from the National Security Advisor – September 2, 2009
This letter thanks the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) for their work in soliciting public comment for the review of Executive Order 12958, as amended.

Letter to the National Security Advisor – July 21, 2009

Summary of Comments Received from the Public – July 21, 2009

The letter and summary represent the efforts of the PIDB to satisfy the June 2, 2009 request of the National Security Advisor. The letter highlights four key themes that the Board saw in the public comments at the July 8, 2009 meeting and the Declassification Policy Forum. The summary of public comments is meant to capture not only what the public stated, but also the diversity of views.

Declassification Policy Forum – June 28, 2009, through July 27, 2009
In response to the National Security Advisor's request, the PIDB hosted a blog discussion on four topics: Declassification Policy, National Declassification Center, Classification Policy, and Technology Challenges and Opportunities. The Board also held a public meeting on July 8, 2009 to solicit recommendations from members of the public.

The Forum had a very productive discussion and received more than 150 thoughtful comments from members of the public. The Public Interest Declassification Board has sent a letter and a summary of the comments to the National Security Advisor.

Letter from the National Security Advisor– June 2, 2009
This letter requests that the PIDB hold a series of public forums to solicit recommendations for revisions to Executive Order 12958, as amended, "Classified National Security Information."
PIDB Letter to the President – March 6, 2009
This letter makes recommendations to the President for a comprehensive reform of the current approach to declassification.


Improving Declassification – January 2, 2008

Improving Declassification Report





On January 2, 2008, the PIDB published its Report to the President on Improving Declassification.  This report highlights 15 issues in the declassification system and the corresponding recommendations from the PIDB.