Beginning today, the Public Interest Declassification Board welcomes your ideas on the possible creation of a National Declassification Center. We hope that you will choose to participate in the Declassification Policy Forum on this important topic, which is an extension of our conversation on Declassification Policy that wrapped up yesterday. Today we begin our discussion on the creation of a National Declassification Center, which will be summarized on the Forum on Saturday July 4 and available for comments until Sunday July 19, 2009.
In our 2007 report to the President, Improving Declassification, we wrote that the declassification system of the Federal Government is composed of many "moving parts." As a result, it is quite difficult to learn what is actually being accomplished. We also found that current processes at agencies varied greatly. Thus, we found that these reviews could be inefficient, inconsistent, and lacking in uniformity. Finally, we noted that the challenges of reviewing records containing the information belonging to multiple agencies has proven extremely difficult and time-consuming and, in some cases has led to the "reclassification" of information after it has become public. As a Board, we support the creation of a National Declassification Center that would create interagency cooperation for declassification, resolve disagreements between agencies, provide uniform guidelines to govern the declassification activities of the entire Executive branch, and facilitate the identification and review of multiple agencies equities.
On May 27, 2009, the President directed agency and department heads to review Executive Order 12958, as amended, "Classified National Security Information," and provide recommendations on establishing a National Declassification Center (NDC). The recommendations for an NDC should "bring appropriate agency officials together to perform collaborative declassification review under the administration of the Archivist of the United States." As you consider your recommendations for the creation of a National Declassification Center, please take into consideration the following questions.
- How should a National Declassification Center prioritize review based on researcher interest?
- What elements should a National Declassification Center have to be successful?
- What should be the end goal of a National Declassification Center?
- What would improve public access to declassified records?
- How could a National Declassification Center best employ technology?
- How could the operation of a National Declassification Center be made as transparent as possible?
David E. Skaggs, Public Interest Declassification Board Member