The Department of Energy has issued its twenty-second report to Congress (pdf) on inadvertent disclosures of classified nuclear weapons-related information in declassified files at the National Archives.
The new report said that reviewers had found an additional 736 pages containing such classified information within the more than 465,000 pages of records that they recently reviewed. The classified materials were removed from public access.
A copy of the new report, dated August 2006 but released in declassified form in September, is available here.
The DOE effort to review previously declassified records for inadvertent disclosures began in 1999 and has nearly been completed. DOE reviewers at the Archives will soon turn their attention to the proper processing of records that are currently undergoing or scheduled for declassification.
The National Security Archive at George Washington University recently obtained cost data on the Department of Energy program to review declassified records at the National Archives.
“So far, according to DOE, the review of the 204 million pages [the total reviewed since 1999] has cost nearly $22 million,” reported William Burr of the National Security Archive.
“While the average cost of the review was about 9 cents per page, the average cost of locating the suspect information was high. The cost of finding one of the 2,766 documents [containing classified data] was almost $8,000, while the cost of finding one of the withdrawn [classified] pages [that had been inadvertently disclosed] was around $3,300,” he wrote.
“The effort to retrieve [classified] ‘RD’ nuclear weapons design information is understandable (although whether adversaries would actually have seized opportunities to find the needle in the archival haystack is a problem worth considering).”
“It would have been far better, however, if DOE had undertaken its review with better guidelines enabling it to focus on protecting truly sensitive information instead of impounding documents that may have little or no sensitivity,” Burr wrote.
See “How Many and Where Were the Nukes?” edited by Dr. William Burr, National Security Archive, August 18, 2006.