Federation of American ScientistsRegulation Comment Desk
307 Massachusetts Avenue, N.E.
Washington, DC 20002
February 17, 2000
NPLN, Room 4100
National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
RE: Proposed Rule on Records DeclassificationDear NARA:
I am writing with comments on the Proposed Rule on Records Declassification published in today's Federal Register.
I believe the proposed rule may be seriously defective because it fails to take into account the outstanding feature of Executive Order 12958, namely the "automatic declassification" provisions of section 3.4.
That section dictates that historically valuable records that are more than 25 years old "shall be automatically declassified whether or not the records have been reviewed." (The date at which automatic declassification will perforce occur has recently been extended, under Executive Order 13142, from April 2000 to October 2001 for most documents and to April 2003 for documents that require multiple agency reviews or that are replete with intelligence information.)
The new NARA proposed rule fails to address these automatic declassification requirements, and suggests by implication that NARA intends to perform systematic declassification review on 25 year old documents even if they have already been declassified "automatically."
A simple "fix" would be to state in Subpart B (Responsibilities), section 1260.20(b), that
"Information more than 25 years old will be automatically declassified upon Presidential authority, except when it has been exempted by an agency head, consistent with EO 12958, section 3.4(b), and EO 13142. Information that has been exempted will be subject to systematic declassification review by the originating agency or by NARA, using declassification guidance provided by the agency."
Likewise, Subpart C, section 1260.40, should be amended to state that
"NARA staff will systematically review for declassification records over 25 years old that have been exempted from automatic declassification...."
Thank you for your consideration of these comments.
FAS Project on Government Secrecy
cc: Director, Information Security Oversight Office