New Appointments to Declassification Center, Board

05.24.10 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Last week, Sheryl Jasielum Shenberger was named by the Archivist of the United States as the first director of the National Declassification Center.

As director, Ms. Shenberger will be responsible for ensuring that the new Center achieves its initial operating capability when it starts operations in earnest next month.  The Center has been tasked by President Obama with eliminating the backlog of over 400 million pages of classified historical records, which must be declassified and made available to the public not later than the end of December 2013.  To meet this ambitious goal, the Center will have to process an average of 100 million pages each year, a tenfold increase over recent practice.

Ms. Shenberger has been a Central Intelligence Agency analyst and desk officer, and currently serves as a Branch Chief at the CIA Declassification Center.  To an outside observer, this is not necessarily a credential that inspires confidence, since CIA classification and declassification policies are among the most arbitrary and questionable anywhere in the government.  But a colleague of Ms. Shenberger praised her performance, and told Secrecy News that she was committed to the goals of the National Declassification Center.  “She’s there to make it work, not to sabotage it.  She wants to succeed, and ‘succeed’ means ‘release’.”

Also last week, attorney William A. Burck was appointed to the Public Interest Declassification Board, which advises the White House on declassification policy.  Its membership is appointed by the White House, and by Congressional majority and minority leaders.

Mr. Burck was named to the Board by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  According to his bio, he previously served as a Special Counsel to President George W. Bush, in which capacity he advised the President and other officials “on major legal issues confronting the Administration.”

The Public Interest Declassification Board has assumed an increasingly important role in the development of secrecy policy.  Last year, the Board was asked by the National Security Advisor (pdf) to help devise “a more fundamental transformation of the security classification system.”  Board Director Martin C. Faga has recently begun some initial outreach to solicit recommendations on how to effect such a transformation.