Public Panels Scheduled Next Week to Discuss Priorities in Declassification Review

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, officials from several Intelligence Community (IC) agencies and three offices within the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will join in two public panels at NARA’s William G. McGowan Theater, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408. Panelists will discuss issues concerning the recent past, current state, and future prospects of declassification review.

From 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., senior NARA leadership and agency experts will host a moderated discussion to celebrate the first decade and future activities of The National Declassification Center (NDC). Due to building access restrictions, registration to attend is required before midnight EDT March 10, 2020. For those unable to attend this event in person at McGowan Theater, live streaming of the NDC panel will be available on NARA’s YouTube Channel.

Established on December 30, 2009, by the Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero under Executive Order 13526, the NDC coordinates interagency declassification processes to promote the public release of historically significant records, while appropriately safeguarding national security.

Since 2015, the NDC’s Indexing on Demand (IOD) program encourages the public to participate in the prioritization of specific record entries for final declassification processing.  Each year, the NDC website lists classified records eligible for request through the IOD program so that the public may identify those of the greatest interest. This offers one mechanism for prioritizing the review of Government records that come up for declassification review every year in increasingly large volumes, which the panelists will discuss with regard to the future of the NDC.

From 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., NDC officials will join a panel with representatives of NARA’s Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), and Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), as well as from several IC agencies to discuss using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request records from the IC. As with the morning panel, registration to attend the event in person is required before midnight EDT March 10, 2020, and NARA will live stream this multi-agency forum on YouTube.

Established under the OPEN Government Act of 2007, OGIS reviews FOIA policies, procedures, and compliance across the Federal Government, and mediates FOIA disputes between Federal agencies and requesters. As with the Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) process—which under Executive Order 13526, ISOO supports through the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP)—the staggering increase in electronic National Security Information continues to impede FOIA review.

Solutions like the NDC’s IOD program represent an earnest step toward the more proactive and thematic prioritization that the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) has consistently recommended in successive reports since 2007 (for links, see the previous entry here at Transforming Classification). The public panels next Thursday offer a welcome forum for considering ways of implementing these recommendations to improve current declassification processes across the Federal Government.

IC and NARA panelists will accept questions from the audience at both morning and afternoon events.

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