When the President Promises, Who Delivers?

April 17, 1995, President Clinton proclaimed that our Government was not purposely hiding anything from its people and to prove it, he signed Executive Order 12958.

 Among other things, the Executive Order spelled out the following:

(a) The Archivist in conjunction with the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office and those agencies that originate classified information, shall establish a Government wide database of information that has been declassified. The Archivist shall also explore other possible uses of technology to facilitate the declassification process.

(b) Agency heads shall fully cooperate with the Archivist in these efforts.

(c) Except as otherwise authorized and warranted by law, all declassified information contained within the database established under paragraph (a), above, shall be available to the public.

 For years Ive been asking the branches of the military, NARA, and DPMO for this list of declassified documents. Only the Air Force has ever responded.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the process, we purge thousands of folders in poorly organized boxes, only to find a slip of paper every now and then indicating that a document has been removed for classification. That slip might be dated back to the sixties. When and if it is declassified, it is put back in that  box, but no one is notified.  This executive order required an index and release date so we could find the declassified document more easily.

Recently, I contacted the Information Security Oversight Office about their progress and they responded with:

 This Order was amended on March 28, 2003, and, with that amendment, the section on a declassification database changed. 

Currently, Section 3.7 of Executive Order 12958, as amended, reads as follows:

Sec. 3.7. Declassification Database.

(a) The Director of the Information Security Oversight Office, in conjunction with those agencies that originate classified information, shall coordinate the linkage and effective utilization of existing agency databases of records that have been declassified and publicly released.

(b) Agency heads shall fully cooperate with the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office in these efforts.

The email from the ISOO went on to say . . . my office has undertaken some initial steps in planning the system of linkages that the Order prescribes, but there are still several hurdles that need to be overcome before this project can move forward to its next step.  

My next email admittedly was a bit more passionate and contained the following:
Now that you've had more than a year to establish links to the many databases, you should be able to help me find those documents from all branches which have been declassified since 1996 concerning the missing servicemen from the Korean War. This would include the military, records facilities, the CIA, NSA, DPMO, the Pentagon, Presidential records from 1950 to present, JPAC, Soviet, Chinese and Korean documents, and any other organization holding documents on these men.

Surprisingly, a quick response came back from ISOO admitting I do not have access to data contained in any declassification databases. and The work that we are currently doing does not touch any of the data contained in any of the Executive branch agency's databases.


Anyone who knows me is quick to recognize that diplomacy is not my forte, so I emailed ISOO again and asked Do you have a list of the different agency contacts?

To which I received no reply!

It now appears that I have misunderstood Section 3.7 of the amended Executive Order, but now that the Archivist has been removed from the process, I dont know who else to contact.

The question still remains: When the President signs an executive order, who is supposed to make sure that it is carried out? 

From experience, we know that newly released classified documents often have portions redacted to protect national security. Even so, we have the right to see these 50 year old bits of information in the hope that it will take us further down the trail in finding the demise of our missing loved-ones.

Ive asked my Senators and Congressman for help, but no response has been received thus far.