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US government drags its feet on declassifying documents

31 May 2012

The number of US government documents that were declassified, as well as the number reviewed for declassification, dropped in fiscal year (FY) 2011. This was compared with the previous fiscal year, according to an annual report by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO).

The ISOO report found that a total of 52.8 million pages were reviewed for declassification in FY 2011 and 26.7 million pages were declassified. This is a decline from the 53.1 million pages reviewed and 29.1 million pages declassified in FY 2010.

According to ISOO trend data, the number of pages declassified in FY 2011 – 26.7 million – was the lowest number in decades.

At this rate, the Obama administration will not meet its goal of reviewing a backlog of 400 million pages of classified documents by December 2013, noted the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) in a statement.

The ISOO report noted that the majority of agency classification determinations that were appealed by requesters were overturned by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) in FY 2011. This pattern has persisted since the panel was established in 1995, suggesting that the overclassification remains pervasive, the FAS opined.

“The radical implications of ISCAP’s unbroken record of overturning a majority of the agency classification positions it reviews – which suggest that agencies are consistently misclassifying and failing to properly declassify information – are not examined in the ISOO report”, FAS said.

This article is featured in:
Compliance and Policy  •  Public Sector


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