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declassified archives military archives Military archives legislation

Declassification procedures in different countries: food for thought

BY KATHLEEN VAN ACKER, ARCHIVIST WITH THE SECTION CLASSIFIED ARCHIVES (BELGIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE).

The Committee of Military Archives thanks Kathleen Van Acker, our Secretary General, for her great commitment and active participation to this blog

Introduction

One of the most discussed topics during our annual conferences is dealing with classified archives. Military archivists deal with these kind of archives on a daily base; we all have similar but also different legislations and directives. So we decided to give an overview of what we found online and what we learned during our discussions.

This summary doesn’t pretend to be complete, on the contrary, like mentioned above, it was mostly an online search and we had to deal with language barriers. It is an invitation for colleagues and researchers to add their information about declassifying procedures, the changes in legislation, etc… So please go ahead and comment in the comments section and send an e-mail to presidency.cam@gmail.com. We will adapt this list on a regular base.

BELGIUM:

CANADA:

FRANCE:

GERMANY:

GREECE:

  • The Army History Directorate:
    • in 2020 all classified documents of the Directorate’s archive issued by Army institutions until 1955 were declassified
    • access to the more recent ones and those not issued by the Army still remain restricted

HUNGARY:

ITALY:

LATVIA:

NETHERLANDS:

POLAND:

SWITZERLAND:

UNITED KINGDOM:

  • Thirty year rule”: all governmental records are released after 30 year (now 20 year)
  • Exemptions: Intelligence services have a “blanket approval” given by the Lord Chancellor to keep their records as long as they are classified, in order to protect national security.
  • More information: 

USA:

  • Declassification after 25 years after creation of the document.
  • Exemptions:
    • 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 non-human intelligence source; or impair the effectiveness of an intelligence method currently in use, available for use, or under development;
    • 25X2 – reveal information that would assist in the development, production, or use of weapons 25X1 of mass destruction;
    • 25X3 – reveal information that would impair U.S. cryptologic systems or activities;
    • 25X4 – reveal information that would impair the application of state-of-the-art technology within a US weapon system;
    • 25X5 – 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;
    • 25X6 – reveal information including foreign government information, that would cause serious harm to relations between the U.S. and a foreign government, or to ongoing diplomatic activities of the U.S;
    • 25X7 – reveal information that would impair the current ability of U.S. government officials to protect the President, Vice President, and other protectees for whom protection services, in the interest of national security, are authorized;
    • 25X8 – 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;
    • 25X9 – violate a statute, treaty, or international agreement that does not permit the automatic or unilateral declassification of information at 25 years.
  • More information:

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