Public Interest Declassification Board Issues Report to the President
Press Release · Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Public Interest Declassification Board
William J. Bosanko, Executive Secretary
c/o Information Security Oversight Office
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 503
Washington, DC 20408-0001
Telephone: (202) 357-5250
Fax: (202) 357-5907
Martin C. Faga
Joan Vail Grimson
Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker
David E. Skaggs
L. Britt Snider
William O. Studeman
Washington, DC…The Public Interest Declassification Board has released its first report to the President providing recommendations for improving the Federal government’s declassification system.
In issuing the report, Acting Chair Martin Faga said, “there is a truly dedicated effort within government to accomplish declassification. More than one billion pages have been declassified since fiscal year 1995. However, a significant portion of this material has not yet been made available to the public, there is much more classified material yet to be reviewed, and the task gets ever harder as the volume increases and materials are created in more complex formats. Our recommendations to develop a way to identify historically significant documents could be an important contribution to the effort to get information out to the public in a timely manner.”
The Board examined 15 issues and made 49 separate recommendations to improve the current declassification system. Among other issues, the Board recommended a more comprehensive approach to declassification within the Federal government to include the establishment of a National Declassification Center. It called for prioritizing the government’s declassification efforts to ensure a greater focus on "historically significant" records, especially presidential records, with greater involvement of historians and historical advisory panels in setting these priorities.
The Board was particularly vocal in calling attention to challenges dealing with records not normally made available to the public, such as the President’s Daily Brief (an intelligence summary prepared each day for the President), as well as classified records created by committees of Congress, particularly classified reports and closed hearing transcripts.
Finally, the Board noted that the current declassification system is ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of tomorrow.
“Declassification is an area that has defied creative thinking,” said L. Britt Snider, outgoing Board Chair in summing up the report. “Because we have laws and executive orders that require, or allow for, the declassification review of virtually all classified information, there has been a sense that nothing can be done to improve the declassification system, short of applying more resources to the problem. I think the Board's report demonstrates the fallacy in this thinking. We have identified a number of things that could be done to make more efficient and effective use of our existing resources--to apply those resources where they would make the most difference.”
The Public Interest Declassification Board is an advisory committee established by Congress in order to promote the fullest possible public access to a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of significant U.S. national security decisions and activities. Created in 2000 (Public Law 106-567), Congress appropriated funds for the Board’s operations in late 2005, allowing it to meet for the first time in February, 2006.
The Board is composed of nine individuals, five appointed by the President and four by the Congressional leadership. The President appointed L. Britt Snider (former Chair) Martin Faga (acting Chair), Steven Garfinkel, Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, and Ronald Radosh. The Minority Leader of the House appointed David Skaggs (Vice Chair) and the Majority Leader of the Senate appointed Joan Vail Grimson. The Speaker of the House appointed Admiral William O. Studeman, USN (Ret.). One Congressional appointment remains pending.
The life of the Board has been extended until 2012. Future plans include addressing other aspects of the classification and declassification process, such as the review of classified information contained in electronic records and monitoring the actions taken to address the issues identified in its first report.
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