Archives on Schedule in Declassification Push

Dan Thornberg/

The three-year-old National Declassification Center at the National Archives has plowed through 80 percent of a long-standing backlog of documents that are 25 years old or older, according to its seventh biannual report.

Declassifiers are on schedule to meet a year-end deadline for fully determining which of some 357 million pages are suitable for release, the report said.

Created by an executive order that President Obama signed in December 2009, the center coordinates an interagency process of risk management to ensure records --mostly related to national security and energy technology -- are reviewed properly before the public gets access. “The quality assurance assessment ensures that the records containing still-sensitive information are properly withheld and that those appropriate for release are indeed declassified,” the center said in a statement.

After verifying that release is appropriate with each agency that can claim “equity” in a given document, the staff have completed the quality assurance review on some 278 million pages, leaving 79 million to go in that interim step. Some 118 million pages have been taken through the entire process for release or reclassification.

“This progress was achieved in spite of the inconsistencies of earlier reviews,” said center director Sheryl J. Shenberger, who also listed mold and brittle records among unexpected setbacks.

The center said its Metrics Team has improved and streamlined procedures for data capture and analysis, providing “end-to-end tracking,” identifying chokepoints and improving production statistics.

The report highlighted especially popular declassifications, including documents, photos, audio and video artifacts related to life behind the Berlin Wall, a project the Archives plans to mark at an October ceremony pegged to the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s famous visit to Berlin.

Another noteworthy achievement: the release of some two million pages from the administrations of all presidents from Truman through Carter, a feat executed with cooperation from the National Archives Presidential Libraries. That included newly declassified diaries of H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, President Nixon’s top aide, who was dismissed during the Watergate crisis.

(Image via Dan Thornberg/

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