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Press Release
October 11, 2000

Federal Panel Declassifies Selected Historically Valuable Documents

Accomplishments Acknowledged by President Clinton in Oval Office Ceremony

On Sept. 29, 2000, members of the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) presented President Bill Clinton with its fourth communique, covering its activities from October 1999 through September 2000. Joined by the Panel's executive secretary and staff of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), the Panel's work was recognized by the President in an Oval Office ceremony. President Clinton commended the Panel's work and thanked each member and the ISOO staff for their efforts to implement Section 5.4 of Executive Order 12958, "Classified National Security Information."

ISCAP's newest communique shows that the Panel has reversed agency classification decisions and declassified information in the majority of the appeals it considered for the fourth straight year. Since it first convened, ISCAP -- which resolves appeals of Executive Branch decisions on classification -- declassified information in the case of 174 of the 218 historically valuable documents upon which it has voted. ISCAP has upheld Executive Branch classification decisions in their entirety in 44 instances.

ISCAP was established on April 17, 1995, when President Clinton signed E.O. 12958. The Order was 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 E.O. 12958, information could be classified indefinitely if it had originated with and been classified by a foreign government. Now, information 25 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.

President Clinton appointed the chair, Justice Department representative Roslyn A. Mazer, in January 1996. Mazer also serves as the Special Counsel for Intellectual Property in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department. The Secretaries of State and Defense, the National Security Adviser, the Director of Central Intelligence, and the Archivist of the United States appointed other representatives to the Panel. The director of ISOO, Steven Garfinkel, serves as the Executive Secretary of the ISCAP, and his staff provides the staff support for the ISCAP.

In releasing the fourth communique, ISCAP's chair, Roslyn Mazer, said:

"For four years, the ISCAP has brought much-needed objectivity and skepticism to the task of implementing President Clinton's carefully-balanced Executive Order. The results prove that we can continue to protect our vital national security interests in a dynamic, complex environment while providing unprecedented access to other government records."

The ISCAP reports that to date, it has decided appeals seeking the declassification of 218 documents that remained fully or partially classified upon the completion of agency review. The ISCAP has declassified information in 80 percent (86 documents in full, 40 percent; 88 documents in part, 40 percent) of the documents reviewed. ISCAP has affirmed agency classification actions fully in the case of 20 percent (44 documents) of the 218 documents.

Documents declassified by ISCAP are usually made available through the organization that has permanent custody of them (in most cases, Presidential libraries). A database of decisions rendered by ISCAP is available in electronic form from the ISCAP staff at 202-219-5250 or via e-mail at [email protected]

ISCAP's executive secretary, Steven Garfinkel, can be reached at 202-219-5250 or via e-mail at [email protected] ISCAP's chair, Roslyn A. Mazer, can be reached at 202-514-1013 or via e-mail at [email protected]

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