NARA and Declassification

Redaction Codes

The declassified documents will usually contain redactions, which indicate portions that contain information not releasable to the public. Each redaction will be associated with a redaction code, which gives the reason for why the information cannot be released. Redaction codes fall under three general categories.

First, for information contained in records under 25 years old, one or more of the classification categories from section 1.4 of the Order will be applied. These categories are:

1.4 (a)  Military plans, weapons systems, or operations

1.4 (b)  Foreign government information

1.4 (c)  Intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology

1.4 (d)  Foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources

1.4 (e)  Scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to the national security

1.4 (f)  United States Government programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities

1.4 (g)  Vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, infrastructures, projects, plans, or protection services relating to the national security

1.4 (h)  The development, production, or use of weapons of mass destruction

Second, for information contained in records over 25 years old, one or more of the declassification exemption categories from section 3.3(b) of the Order will be applied. These categories are for information the release of which should clearly and demonstrably be expected to:

3.3 (b) (1)  Reveal the identity of a confidential human source, a human intelligence source, a relationship with an intelligence or security service of a foreign government or international organization, or a nonhuman intelligence source; or impair the effectiveness of an intelligence method currently in use, available for use, or under development

3.3 (b) (2)  Reveal information that would assist in the development, production, or use of weapons of mass destruction

3.3 (b) (3)  Reveal information that would impair U.S. cryptologic systems or activities

3.3 (b) (4)  Reveal information that would impair the application of state-of-the-art technology within a U.S. weapon system

3.3 (b) (5)  Reveal formally named or numbered U.S. military war plans that remain in effect, or reveal operational or tactical elements of prior plans that are contained in such active plans

3.3 (b) (6)  Reveal information, including foreign government information, that would cause serious harm to relations between the United States and a foreign government, or to ongoing diplomatic activities of the United States

3.3 (b) (7)  Reveal information that would impair the current ability of United States Government officials to protect the President, Vice President, and other protectees for whom protection services, in the interest of the national security, are authorized

3.3 (b) (8)  Reveal information that would seriously impair current national security emergency preparedness plans or reveal current vulnerabilities of systems, installations, or infrastructures relating to the national security

3.3 (b) (9)  Violate a statute, treaty, or international agreement that does not permit the automatic or unilateral declassification of information at 25 years

There are certain special exemption categories specified in section 3.3(h) of the Order. These categories exempt information from automatic declassification at 50 and 75 years. These categories are:

3.3(h)(1)(A)  Information that would reveal the identity of a confidential human source or a human intelligence source is exempt from automatic declassification at 50 years

3.3(h)(1)(B)  Information that would reveal key design concepts of weapons of mass destruction is exempt from automatic declassification at 50 years

3.3(h)(2)  Other information specially requested for exemption by an agency head and approved by the ISCAP for exemption from automatic declassification at 50 years

3.3(h)(3)  Information specially requested for exemption by an agency head and approved by the ISCAP for exemption from automatic declassification at 75 years

Third, section 3.5(c) of the Order requires that agencies, when conducting a mandatory declassification review of a record, “shall release this information unless withholding is otherwise authorized and warranted under applicable law.”  The ISCAP only decides on appeals for decisions made concerning classified national security information; other types of information fall outside the authority of the ISCAP, and the redaction codes for these types of information will reflect the reasons for withholding this information. These redaction codes include, but are not limited to:

  • Section 6.2(a) of the Order, furthermore, states that certain types of nuclear information, known as “Restricted Data” and “Formerly Restricted Data,” which must be handled according to the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended.
  • Exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) other than the exemption for national security.
  • A specific statute that applies to that agency’s information, like the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949, or Public Law 83-36 of the National Security Agency.

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