Executive Order 13526, as amended, “Classified National Security Information,” establishes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information.
From the Order:
“Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their Government. Also, our Nation's progress depends on the free flow of information both within the Government and to the American people. Nevertheless, throughout our history, the national defense has required that certain information be maintained in confidence in order to protect our citizens, our democratic institutions, our homeland security, and our interactions with foreign nations. Protecting information critical to our Nation's security and demonstrating our commitment to open Government through accurate and accountable application of classification standards and routine, secure, and effective declassification are equally important priorities.”
More guidance on this was later sent via memorandum to all heads of executive departments and agencies.
Automatic Declassification Program
The Automatic Declassification Program pertains to agencies with original classification authority (past and current). Information appraised as having permanent historical value is automatically declassified once it reaches 25 years of age unless an agency head has determined that it falls within a narrow exemption that permits continued classification and it has been appropriately approved.
Records that contain other agencies classified information is referred to those agencies for action. Though the Department of Justice may declassify their interest in a document, it will not be fully declassified until other agency equities are cleared.
Systematic Declassification Program
The Systematic Declassification Program is a complementary program to automatic declassification. It requires all agencies that create classified information to establish and conduct a systematic declassification review program for classified permanently valuable records for the purpose of declassification after the records reach a specific age. Records exempted from automatic declassification are subject to the systematic review program.
Mandatory Declassification Review Program
The Mandatory Declassification Review Program permits individuals or agencies to require an agency to review specific classified national security information for purposes of seeking its declassification. This program allows historians, researchers, and other members of the public to identify documents and or information pertinent to their research.
Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP).
Individuals or agencies may appeal mandatory declassification review decisions that have been denied at the agency level by appealing to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP). This panel provides the necessary checks and balances for the mandatory declassification review program and a venue for presenting appeals to a neutral body.
Information that has been declassified under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is often posted in FOIA Reading Rooms online. You may access the Reading Rooms, here.
How to File a Mandatory Declassification Review Request:
To file a Mandatory Declassification Review Request, please contact:
Director, Office of Information Policy
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue. NW
Washington, DC 20530
Updated: March 2013