The Ford Library has always worked to help researchers obtain declassification of national security classified materials no longer needing protection. Executive Order 12958, which sets deadlines for the review of all classified materials over 25 years old, has caused us to focus even more resources on this goal. Current programs are described below:
Early in the history of the Library, mandatory declassification review was basically the only tool at our disposal. This process requires the researcher to identify specific documents, typically using information from withdrawal sheets in the files, and request their review. This approach is still available. Requests are limited to 35 documents at a time. Results are often slow in coming, as most documents have to be submitted to their originating agencies for review, but it does give the requestor certain appeal rights for information denied.
View lists of documents recently opened through Mandatory Review
As the information in our files aged and sensitivities lessened, some agencies delegated declassification authority to Library archivists specially trained to apply written guidelines and oral guidance. We have devoted many hours to systematic review, including initial review (but not final opening) of more than 300,000 pages of previously unprocessed material.
We began final review and opening of systematically reviewed material with a special project to locate and make available materials regarding the Vietnam War. We opened approximately 25,000 pages in April 2000. The staff determined the second priority for final review to be the Presidential Country Files of the National Security Advisers’ Files. After the completion of the processing of those files, we processed several small National Security Adviser collections and then a large file of National Security Council Institutional Records. More information about the collections we have opened.
Remote Archive Capture (RAC) Project
Of the documents in our holdings that we cannot review in-house, most have been digitally scanned as part of NARA’s Office of Presidential Libraries sponsored program called RAC. The appropriate agencies in Washington are currently reviewing over 200,000 pages of scanned documents. The agencies notify the Library of their decisions, and we make materials available to researchers as quickly as possible.
Past experience shows that our resources can be diverted at any time to work on projects mandated by Congress, the President, and the courts. The Kennedy Assassination Records Act, MIA and POW project, and Chile and Argentina human rights projects are but a few examples. This can have a major impact on our overall workplan due to our limited resources.