5 Replies Latest reply on Sep 29, 2016 9:27 AM by Bill Streifer

    What is NARA's policy...?

    Bill Streifer Adventurer

      In some cases, unclassified documents were reclassified later, either because they were incorrectly declassified early on or because the agency that declassified them decided, for whatever reason, to later change their classification status.

       

      Here is a website on the subject: ISOO Audit

       

      In one case, WWII-era documents that were originally classified after the war, were then declassified in the 1990's (remaining unclassified for 25 years) until they were later re-classified. During that "unclassified" period, copies were presumably made, distributed, analyzed, and possibly published. In 1978, for example, in an article in Science magazine, an American journalist quoted a Japanese scientist who summarized the conclusion of those now-classified documents.

       

      So.... What is NARA's official policy concerning the "publication" of documents that were previously unclassified -- sometimes for many years or decades -- but now have recently been re-classified? I understand that an author can't publish a copy of a now-classified document, but can he/she quote from them, analyze them, paraphrase from them, cite them, etc.? What does NARA say on this subject?

        • Re: What is NARA's policy...?
          Kelly Osborn Scout

          Just a note to say we're getting you an answer. Thanks for your patience!

          • Re: What is NARA's policy...?
            Kelly Osborn Scout

            Here's what our ISOO representative says:

             

            There are specific Government-wide regulations concerning the reclassification of information that either has been officially declassified or has been declassified without proper authority. These regulations can be found in part 1.7(c) of Executive Order 13526 and in 32 C.F.R. Part 2001.13.  These regulations specify the steps an agency must take in order to reclassify information. One of those steps is that the agency must evaluate whether the information can be reasonably recovered without drawing undue attention to it.


            To answer this specific question, there is no national policy concerning the publication by persons outside the U.S. Government of documents that were once available to the public but which were later reclassified.

             

            I hope that helps!

            2 of 2 people found this helpful
              • Re: What is NARA's policy...?
                Bill Streifer Adventurer

                You answer was VERY helpful, thanks!

                 

                But that second part of your answer -- no national policy concerning the publication by persons outside the U.S. Government of documents that were once available to the public but which were later reclassified -- kind of puts civilians, like myself, on the spot.

                 

                Suppose I obtained a document from NARA that was unclassified (of course). But it has since been re-classified -- say, for instance, Pres. Obama's executive order made that document classified. And then I discover, somehow, that the document on my desk was now classified (perhaps I was informed of a withdrawal slip in a box at NARA).

                 

                What do I do? a) publish a classified document and worry about being arrested? b) don't publish a document because I took too long to finish my book, and not publish a book I've been working on for nearly a decade, or c) that fuzzy area in-between a) and b), not know what to do.

                 

                P.S.

                I don't like fuzzy areas.

                  • Re: What is NARA's policy...?
                    Kelly Osborn Scout

                    It sounds like this has gone out of our purview and you may want to consult a legal expert. Please keep us posted and let us know what happens. Good luck with your book!

                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                      • Re: What is NARA's policy...?
                        Bill Streifer Adventurer

                        Kelly,

                         

                        So you know, a document I ordered from NARA in 2012, which I thought had been re-classified, wasn't. So you probably won't have to visit me in jail anytime soon. However, there's another document -- which NARA hasn't yet been able to quote or (apparently) locate -- was withdrawn in 2010 and forwarded to the CIA for a classification review. The CIA then declassified it (AGAIN!) and moved into a different folder. I'm anxious to see what that document says...

                         

                        Bill