In his 1995 executive order 12958, President Clinton directed that most historically valuable classified records be automatically declassified as they become 25 years old. The onset of this automatic declassification process was deferred repeatedly, but it was affirmed in principle by President Bush in his 2003 executive order 13292, and the initial phase of the process is now scheduled to begin at the end of December 2006.
“It is one thing to conceive such a concept and quite another to implement it,” wrote William Leonard, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, in the latest ISOO annual report (pdf) to the President.
“As of September 21, 2005, ISOO estimate[d] that 155 million pages of classified national security information must be declassified, exempted, or referred to other agencies by December 31, 2006.”
“ISOO believes, for the most part, that the Executive branch is progressing toward fulfilling its responsibilities for these records by the deadline,” Mr. Leonard wrote.
A selection of agency declassification plans presented to ISOO detailing plans for compliance with the automatic declassification deadline, obtained under the FOIA by Michael Ravnitzky, is posted here.
For related background, see “Progress Toward the Automatic Declassification Deadline of December 31, 2006″ in the 2005 ISOO Annual Report to the President (at page 19).