The National Archives said last week that it will gather tens of millions of pages of classified historical records from Presidential Libraries around the country and will bring them to Washington, DC for declassification review.
“We are making this change to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the safeguarding and the declassification of this material and in light of resource challenges,” said NARA chief operating officer William J. Bosanko. “Researchers are expected to benefit from efficiencies we can gain in the declassification process.”
“It is important to stress that this change in physical location of the records is temporary and that the records will be returned to the Presidential Libraries as they are declassified,” he wrote in a March 1 message.
Is it really necessary to physically move the records to DC in order to declassify them? Isn’t there at least a subset of classified records at presidential libraries that could be readily declassified on site?
“My personal opinion is yes (although the size of the subset changes greatly from Library to Library),” replied Mr. Bosanko by email today. “However, this comes back to age-old issues around declassification authority and third-agency referrals. With the policies that are in place, in a practical sense, the answer is no (and, the status quo has not realized the sort of declassification I think is at the heart of your question). And, bringing them here makes it much easier to address long-standing challenges such as certain topics that cut across more than one Administration.”
There are approximately 75 million pages of classified records at presidential libraries that will be affected by the move, Mr. Bosanko said. Duplicate copies will not be kept at the libraries during the declassification review.
“We are just starting the planning process and many details must still be worked out,” he wrote.