The Central Intelligence Agency anticipates declining productivity in its declassification program, according to a newly disclosed declassification plan. Between 1995 and 2006, CIA reviewed nearly 97 million pages of 25 year old documents and released 30 million pages, the Agency reported. But that level of activity is unlikely to be sustained.
“Resource constraints limit our ability to implement the detailed — and expensive — review intrinsic to a redaction strategy [in which individual words or passages are deleted from a particular page] and drive us in the direction of a document-level pass-fail system [in which an entire document is either fully released or fully withheld], which significantly reduces the number of documents that can be released.”
Nor is CIA willing to permit other government agencies to review its records for possible release, which would be one way to optimize the declassification process.
“CIA has no plans to delegate broad declassification authority to other government agencies. In fact, CIA has rescinded past arrangements under which it delegated limited declassification authority to NARA,” the CIA declassification plan noted.
In a previously unreported step that further limits disclosure, the CIA has devised a new loophole in the automatic declassification requirements of the executive order on classification policy.
In CIA’s reading, a 25 year old document is not considered “historically valuable,” and therefore subject to automatic declassification, unless and until it is no longer in use. But if the document is still in active use, the CIA says, it does not qualify as historically valuable for purposes of declassification no matter how historically significant it may be.
“Surveys of records in the D/CIA and the Directorate of Intelligence areas indicate that certain of these records, while containing pre-1982 materials, are still in use and therefore remain unretired.” Such records, CIA says, will only be subject to automatic declassification requirements “when and if [they] are retired permanently.”
“Many of CIA’s methods, techniques, and operations over 25 years old are still active,” the plan notes. “In some cases, currently inactive sources and methods may be reactivated.”
The CIA Declassification Plan was submitted to the Information Security Oversight Office in April 2006. It was approved for release in October 2007 with limited redactions in response to a request from researcher Michael Ravnitzky. A copy of the document is here.