The new National Declassification Center (NDC) reviewed 83 million pages of classified historical records in 2010, but so far only 12 million of those pages have been declassified and released to the open shelves at the National Archives, according to a new report (pdf) from the NDC.
At a time when currently classified records are being leaked and published online nearly every day, it may seem quaint that government agencies are investing time and money to painstakingly review records that are more than 25 years old for possible declassification. But the NDC process is more productive than leaks have been to date, yielding millions of newly disclosed pages, not just thousands.
The NDC has been directed by the President to process more than 400 million pages of historical records for declassification and public release before the end of 2013. The results to date, which leave a large majority of records beyond public reach even after review, call into question the criteria that are being used to process the records for declassification. The release rate of 14% (i.e., 12 million pages made public thus far out of 83 million reviewed) seems astonishingly low for 25 year old records. See “Bi-annual Report on Operations of the National Declassification Center,” January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2010.
The NDC report also mentions that “We began to coordinate two government-wide special collection reviews for the declassification and release of material associated with the Pentagon Papers (40th anniversary) and the Berlin Wall construction (50th anniversary).”
Remarkably, the bulk of the Pentagon Papers, which were leaked in 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg, never formally underwent declassification review, as noted recently by historian John Prados. This means that every public and private library in the country that has a copy of the Papers is technically in possession of currently classified material.