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Automatic declassification

[is] the declassification of information based solely upon: (1) the occurrence of a specific date or event as determined by the original classification authority; or (2) the expiration of a maximum time frame for duration of classification established under this order.[1]
removes the classification of information at the close of every calendar year when that information reaches the 25-year threshold.[2]


Under a program, established in 1995 by Executive Order 12958, all classified documents 25 years of age or older determined to be permanently valuable under 44 U.S.C. were subject to automatic declassification on December 31, 2006, unless departments or agencies exempted them from declassification. This program forced departments and agencies to review these records before the deadline established by the Order. Owing to the volume of such records (an estimated 1.3 billion pages), nearly all agencies performed only a “pass/fail” review, exempting from declassification any record they found to contain information that continued to be classified, rather than redacting such information. Records that were exempted then became subject to the “systematic declassification” provisions of the Order, which require agencies to conduct subsequent and ongoing declassification review(s) based on researcher interest and the likelihood of declassification upon review.

Since the Order requires that all permanently valuable classified records will be automatically declassified as they reach 25 years of age, unless appropriately exempted from declassification by the originating agency, most agencies have chosen to institute an ongoing process for considering the records subject to the automatic declassification provisions of the Order.