NARA and Declassification

File Series Exemptions


What is a File Series Exemption (FSE)?

  • A delay from automatic declassification at 25 years, not an exemption from declassification
  • For file series where the information "almost invariably" falls within one or more of the exemption categories in Section 3.3(b)

Section 3.3(c)(1) of Executive Order 13526, "Classified National Security Information" provides that an agency head shall notify the Panel of any specific file series of records for which a review or assessment has determined that the information within that file series almost invariably falls within one or more of the exemption categories listed in paragraph (b) of this section and that the agency proposes to exempt from automatic declassification at 25 years.


(2) The notification for a proposed file series exemption to the ISCAP shall include:

(A) a description of the file series;

  • must be as full and specific as possible and provide a narrative of the entire series, not just the exemptible material.
  • must identify the date span of the file series and provide an estimate of the volume in cubic feet.

(B) an explanation of why the information within the file series is almost invariably exempt from automatic declassification and why the information must remain classified for a longer period of time; and

  • additionally, agencies must explain the process utilized to arrive at a conclusion that the information in the series is "almost invariably exempt."

(C) except when the information within the file series almost invariably identifies a confidential human source or a human intelligence source or key design concepts of weapons of mass destruction, agencies must specify a clear and reasonable date or event for declassification of the information, not to exceed December 31 of the year that is 50 years from the date of origin of the records.


File series exemptions approved by the President prior to December 31, 2008, shall remain valid without any additional agency action pending Panel review by the later of December 31, 2010, or December 31 of the year that is 10 years from the date of previous approval. Approval of file series exemptions are now executed by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel.

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