In its sixth bi-annual report on the status of the National Declassification Center (NDC), the National Records and Archives Administration (NARA) announced that the NDC has completed its assessment analysis of 361 million pages of classified documents in its backlog. NARA reports all backlog series are “in the proper queue” for the final quality review and processing stages, while many have completed all processes.
Established by Executive Order in late 2009, the NDC has the vital task of preparing the revised backlog for public release by December 31, 2013. To date, the assessment process has resulted in the release or reclassification of 90 million historical pages. NDC Director Sheryl Shenberger cited a voluntary commitment by her staff to work extra hours as the reason for meeting the milestone.
In its 2012 Secrecy Report, the OpentheGovernment.org raised questions about the likelihood the NDC would meet its goal for declassifying its records on time—a point of contention with Shenberger last July at the AALL Annual Meeting program, “The National Declassification Center – Will It Meet Our Expectations”. The NDC’s main challenge is the onerous requirements of the Kyl-Lott amendment, which requires a certification that the collection is “highly unlikely” to contain nuclear weapons information. Nearly 100 million backlog pages still require some version of page-level review, a “highly unlikely” certification, or additional documentation as to their Kyl-Lott review status. These stringent requirements could prevent the NDC from meeting its goal.
AALL commends the NDC on its progress thus far. With many of these records of great interest to legal researchers, we encourage the NDC’s goal to continue declassification of historical documents in a timelier manner by tracking all records from accessioning to their final availability.