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Declassification deadline extended by presidential order

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information         Dec 7, 1999    

Declassification deadline extended by presidential order

  • Executive order extends timeline for declassification but does not alter general policy of automatic declassification of records more than 25 years old.

President Bill Clinton signed an executive order on November 19 that extended by 18 months the deadline for the declassification of most information that is more than 25 years old.

The executive order extends the former declassification deadline from April 17, 2000 to Oct. 17, 2001, and further extends the deadline to April 17, 2003 for information “that was created by or is under the control of more than one agency” or “that almost invariably pertains to intelligence sources or methods.”

According to the federal government’s Information Security Oversight Office, the new executive order maintains the Clinton administration’s stated policy of automatically declassifying nonexempt information contained in permanently valuable records. The executive order also does not change the ISOO’s function of monitoring compliance with the order or the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel’s role in considering appeals of classification decisions.

The new order amends Executive Order 12958, which Clinton signed in April 1995. At the time, Clinton described that order as helping his administration bring secrecy rules into line “with our vision of American democracy in the post-cold-war world.” Its provisions automatically declassified records that had been previously classified after 10 or 25 years except when specific exemptions applied and ISCAP agreed to the continued classification. It replaced a 1982 order by President Ronald Reagan that allowed stockpiles of classified information to accrue.

The federal Freedom of Information Act requires all federal records to be open unless an exemption applies. The first FOI Act exemption provides that records classified “under criteria established by an Executive order” are to be secret to protect national defense or foreign policy interests.

(Executive Order 13142)

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© 1999 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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