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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed government agencies' classification of national security information, focusing on: (1) the reasons for retaining large volumes of classified documents; and (2) whether documents contained classification errors and agencies adhered to classification policies and procedures.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
National Security Council 1. The Director, ISOO, in coordination with the National Security Council, should determine a maximum period of time for automatic declassification and initiate action to revise the executive order governing national security information.
Closed - Implemented
The President signed Executive Order 12958 on April 17, 1995, "Classified National Security Information", directing automatic declassification 10 years after the date of original classification.
Office of Information Security Oversight 2. The Director, ISOO, in coordination with the National Security Council, should determine a maximum period of time for automatic declassification and initiate action to revise the executive order governing national security information.
Closed - Implemented
The President signed Executive Order 12958 on April 17, 1995, "Classified National Security Information", directing automatic declassification 10 years after the date of original classification.
National Security Council 3. The Director, ISOO, in coordination with the National Security Council, should revise the executive order governing national security information to eliminate authorization for the use of undefined declassification designators such as OADR.
Closed - Implemented
The President signed Executive Order 12958 on April 17, 1995, "Classified National Security Information". It does not permit use of undefined declassification designators.
Office of Information Security Oversight 4. The Director, ISOO, in coordination with the National Security Council, should revise the executive order governing national security information to eliminate authorization for the use of undefined declassification designators such as OADR.
Closed - Implemented
The President signed Executive Order 12958 on April 17, 1995, "Classified National Security Information". It does not permit use of undefined declassification designators.
National Security Council 5. The Director, ISOO, in coordination with the National Security Council, should revise the executive order governing national security information to require agencies to automatically declassify national security information without review on a specific date or event, or no later than the maximum period of time after origination as determined by ISOO.
Closed - Implemented
The President signed Executive Order 12958 on April 17, 1995, "Classified National Security Information". It directs declassification 10 years after the date of original classification unless specifically exempted.
Office of Information Security Oversight 6. The Director, ISOO, in coordination with the National Security Council, should revise the executive order governing national security information to require agencies to automatically declassify national security information without review on a specific date or event, or no later than the maximum period of time after origination as determined by ISOO.
Closed - Implemented
The President signed Executive Order 12958 on April 17, 1995, "Classified National Security Information". It directs declassification 10 years after the date of original classification unless specifically exempted.
National Security Council 7. The Director, ISOO, in coordination with the National Security Council, should revise the executive order governing national security information to establish classes of information that can be exempted from automatic declassification and require agency heads to submit notice to ISOO when such exemptions are invoked.
Closed - Implemented
The President signed Executive Order 12958 on April 17, 1995, "Classified National Security Information". It identifies classes of information that may be exempted from declassification at 10 years.
Office of Information Security Oversight 8. The Director, ISOO, in coordination with the National Security Council, should revise the executive order governing national security information to establish classes of information that can be exempted from automatic declassification and require agency heads to submit notice to ISOO when such exemptions are invoked.
Closed - Implemented
The President signed Executive Order 12958 on April 17, 1995, "Classified National Security Information". It identifies classes of information that may be exempted from declassification at 10 years.
National Security Council 9. The Director, ISOO, in coordination with the National Security Council, should revise the executive order governing national security information to require agency heads to submit written justification for extending classification beyond the maximum period, if deemed appropriate, for any of those categories of information not initially exempted.
Closed - Implemented
The President signed Executive Order 12958 on April 17, 1995, "Classified National Security Information". It does not require agency heads to submit written justification for classifying new material beyond the 10-year limit. However, it does require agency heads to notify the President of exemptions to automatic declassification of material that is 25 years or more old.
Office of Information Security Oversight 10. The Director, ISOO, in coordination with the National Security Council, should revise the executive order governing national security information to require agency heads to submit written justification for extending classification beyond the maximum period, if deemed appropriate, for any of those categories of information not initially exempted.
Closed - Implemented
The President signed Executive Order 12958 on April 17, 1995, "Classified National Security Information". It does not require agency heads to submit written justification for classifying new material beyond the 10-year limit. However, it does require agency heads to notify the President of exemptions to automatic declassification of material that is 25 years or more old.
Office of Information Security Oversight 11. The Director, ISOO, subject to the approval of the National Security Council, should initiate action to revise the executive order to require that agencies obtain authorization from ISOO before invoking waivers to the portion marking requirement.
Closed - Implemented
The President signed Executive Order 12958 on April 17, 1995, "Classified National Security Information". It requires portion marking of classified documents and permits ISOO to issue waivers in accordance with standards prescribed in directives published under this Order.
Department of State 12. The Secretary of State should require that the Department's classifying officials apply its current waiver only to internal documents as authorized.
Closed - Implemented
During processing of the GAO report, the Department of State revised the Foreign Affairs Manual with respect to the portion-marking waiver. As stated in the report, the revision (dated February 27, 1993), lists no exemptions to its portion-marking waiver. The Department's response to the congressional committees cites the FAM revision and states that authority to invoke waivers to the portion-marking requirements should remain with the agency head, rather than ISOO, as GAO recommended. The State Department also commented that it would not object to GAO's other recommendations, provided that sufficient authority rests in the agency head to designate exempt classes of information when deemed necessary.

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