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FAS Intro: The following letter was sent to executive branch agencies inviting them to propose "improvements" in the classification and declassification provisions of Executive Order 12958.

Information Security Oversight Office
National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20408

March 24, 1997

The purpose of this letter is to invite your participation in the prospective fine tuning of Executive Order 12958, "Classified National Security Information." With the recent issuance of the Report of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy and the passage of 18 months since executive branch agencies began implementing E.O. 12958, we believe that this is a critical time to examine closely how the revised security classification system is performing, and if it can be improved through amendments to the Order or to its implementing directives. The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) will coordinate this review pursuant to its authorities and responsibilities under E.O. 12958. The review will take place in conjunction with my role as Chairman of the Classification Management Committee of the Security Policy Board. The National Security Council has endorsed the conduct of this review, but is not currently committed to any particular changes to E.O. 12958.

We emphasize that our purpose is to consider the fine tuning of E.O. 12958, not to alter its basic policies. Many years' study went into the policies contained in E.O. 12958, which in some areas significantly changed practices that dated from the beginnings of the Cold War. For example, these policy changes have already resulted in dramatic increases in the declassification of historically valuable information. However, while we are not looking to reverse policies that are still in their initial stages, we welcome the suggestion of revisions based on your experience that may improve efficiency or reduce costs.

The Report of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy provides an excellent starting point for considering changes that you might recommend. If you do not have a copy of this Report, ISOO has a modest supply of copies available upon request. We would like to receive your recommendations for revision of E.O. 12958, either in writing or by E-mail (isoo@arch1.nara.gov), no later than May 30, 1997.


Steven Garfinkel

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