Justice and Law Enforcement:

Systematic Review for Declassification of National Security Information--Do Benefits Exceed Costs?

LCD-81-3: Published: Oct 15, 1980. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 1980.

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A review was undertaken of the systematic declassification review program provided for in Executive Order 12065. Under Executive Order 12065, the National Archives and Records Service (NARS) is required to review all classified records considered to be of permanent value as they become 20 years old to determine if they can be declassified. One exception is foreign government information, which must remain classified until it becomes 30 years old. Additionally, the National Security Council is responsible for providing overall policy direction for agencies to use in implementing the Order, and the Administrator of General Services is responsible for implementing and monitoring the classification program through its Information Security Oversight Office.

In its review, GAO found that NARS, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State anticipate spending $88 million in salaries and benefits during fiscal years 1981 through 1988 to systematically review information for declassification. Further, GAO found that: (1) there is little chance that all 20-year-old classified records will be reviewed by the required December 1988 date; (2) NARS inaccurately reported the results of its declassification reviews for several years; (3) a review of only those records requested by the public and those expected to be requested would improve responsiveness to public requests and would reduce costs; and (4) the General Services Administration's Inspector General has never reviewed the NARS declassification program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the Inspector General to periodically conduct comprehensive reviews of the NARS declassification program.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the Archivist of the United States to transfer responsibility for all declassification reviews to the custodial divisions, after modification of the systematic review requirement.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the National Security Council should draft, and submit to the President for approval, a revision to section 3-4 of Executive Order 12065 that would modify the requirement for the systematic review for declassification of all 20-year-old permanently valuable classified information.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: National Security Council

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should revise the section of form 7096 to show the number of (1) pages reviewed, (2) classified pages reviewed, (3) classified pages declassified, and (4) classified pages exempt from declassification.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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