News

The White House Briefing Room


August 26, 1998

STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY

                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
                    (Martha?s Vineyard, Massachusetts)
                                                       For Immediate
Release                    August 26, 1998

                     STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY

                 FEDERAL PANEL ORDERS DECLASSIFICATION OF
                        SELECTED COLD WAR DOCUMENTS

     An  interagency  panel  established  by President Clinton has reversed
agency  decisions and declassified Cold War records more than 80 percent of
the  time,  a new report shows.  In the two years since it was created, the
Interagency  Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) - which resolves
appeals  from  Executive  Branch  classification  decisions  - declassified
information  in  full or in part in 81 out of the 96 documents presented to
it.    Agency classification actions were upheld by ISCAP in the case of 15
documents.

     ISCAP was established on April 17, 1995, when President Clinton signed
Executive  Order  12958,  the first effort since the end of the Cold War to
reassess  the  balance  between  open  government  and the need to maintain
secrets   vital   to  national  security.   The  order  requires  automatic
declassification  of  information  after  25  years, subject to very narrow
exceptions.

     Until  the 1995 order, information could be classified indefinitely if
it  had  originated with and been classified by a foreign government.  Now,
information   twenty-five   years  or  older  can   remain  classified  for
diplomatic  reasons  only  if  disclosure would "seriously and demonstrably
impair  relations" with a foreign government or "seriously and demonstrably
undermine  ongoing diplomatic activities." Twenty-five year old information
pertaining  to  the  identity  of  an  intelligence  source can only remain
classified   under   the   new  Order  if  disclosure  "would  clearly  and
demonstrably damage" national security.

     ISCAP  is  chaired by the Justice Department representative, Roslyn A.
Mazer, who was appointed chair by President Clinton in January 1996.  Other
representatives to the Panel were appointed by the Secretaries of State and
Defense,   the   National   Security  Adviser,   the  Director  of  Central
Intelligence, and the Archivist of the United States.

     "ISCAP?s  record to date demonstrates both the wisdom and practicality
of the new Executive Order," Mazer said in releasing the two-year report. "
The  balance  the  President  struck  in  the  Order  shows that government
classifiers  can  achieve  maximum responsible disclosure." In applying the
new standards, "reflexive use of the old classification categories has been
replaced  by  healthy  skepticism," she said.  "In our new, infinitely more
complex  security environment, ISCAP?s actions will continue to protect our
vital national security secrets but will make more information available to
our citizens, scientists, and historians so that we can learn from the past
and fashion a more secure future," Mazer said.

     Since   its   inception,   ISCAP   has  decided  appeals  seeking  the
declassification   of   96  documents  that  remained  fully  or  partially
classified  upon  the  completion  of  agency  review.    In the case of 81
documents,   or   84.5%   of  the  total,  ISCAP  declassified  significant
information  in whole (59 documents) or in part (22 documents).   ISCAP has
affirmed  agency  classification  actions  fully for 15 of the 96 documents
(15.5%).


Examples of Declassifications

     Examples of ISCAP declassifications include:

#     Declassification  in  large  part  of  documents  from  the  Kennedy,
     Eisenhower  and  Johnson  Administrations regarding the deployment and
     potential  use  of nuclear weapons in Europe, including information on
     command  and  control,  targeting,  authorization  for expenditures in
     emergency situations, and consultations with allied governments.

#     Declassification  in full of two State Department communications with
     embassies   overseas  during  the  1967  Arab-Israeli  "Six  Day  War"
     discussing   Israeli  nuclear  weapons  capabilities  and  intentions.
     ISCAP  kept  two  other  messages  classified in full and declassified
     parts  of  two  others,  where  disclosure  would  have  seriously and
     demonstrably  undermined  ongoing  diplomatic activities in the Middle
     East  or,  in one instance, would have revealed an intelligence source
     requiring continued protection.

#     Declassification  in full of a September 1967 memorandum to President
     Johnson  from  National Security Adviser Walt Rostow speculating about
     military   options  then  available  to  the  North  Vietnamese  army.
     Portions  of  the  memorandum  had  been classified to protect foreign
     relations and intelligence sources or methods.

#     Declassification  in  full  of  two  1962  letters  from Indian Prime
     Minister  Nehru  to  President Kennedy that pertain to Indian concerns
     during  the border conflict between India and the Peoples? Republic of
     China.

#     For  information less than twenty-five years old, declassification of
     fourteen  Ford  administration  documents  (four in their entirety and
     significant   portions   of   ten  others)  pertaining  to  diplomatic
     initiatives  concerning  the potential development of nuclear weapons,
     materials  and  processing by the Republic of Korea.  Some information
     continues  to  be  classified  because  it  reveals  the identity of a
     confidential  source or an intelligence source, or because its release
     could result in serious and demonstrable harm to U.S. relations with a
     foreign government.

     Documents declassified by ISCAP are usually made available through the
organization   that   has   permanent  custody  of  them  (in  many  cases,
Presidential  libraries).   The  database of decisions rendered by ISCAP is
available  from  the  Information  Security  Oversight  Office (ISOO, which
provides  staff  support  to  ISCAP).  ISCAP?s chair Roslyn A. Mazer can be
reached at (202) 514-1013, or by e-mail at [email protected]  The ISCAP can
be  reached  by  e-mail  at  [email protected], or through its Executive
Secretary Steven Garfinkel at [email protected]

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