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United States: President Obama Signs Executive Order Streamlining Declassification of Government Information

(Jan. 25, 2010) On December 29, 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order intended to allow researchers to gain access more quickly to formerly classified national security information.

Executive Order 13,526, “Classified National Security Information,” makes several changes to make information that should no longer be classified more readily available. These include:

1) Establishing a National Declassification Center within the National Archives that will coordinate and streamline the declassification process, with priorities set by the Archivist of the United States with the input of researchers and the public;

2) Establishing the principle that no records may remain classified indefinitely;

3) Providing enforceable deadlines for declassifying documents, generally between 10 to 25 years from the time of classification; and

4) Requiring executive branch agencies to review their classification guidance documents to ensure they do not require unnecessary classification.

President Obama also issued a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies outlining the implementation of the requirements of the Executive Order. (Classified National Security Information, Executive Order No. 13,526, 75 Fed. Reg. 707 (Jan. 5, 2010), available at; Presidential Memorandum, Implementation of the Executive Order, “Classified National Security Information,” 75 Fed. Reg. 733 (Jan. 5, 2010), available at