Statement on Signing Executive Order 12356, Concerning National Security Information

April 2, 1982

I have today signed an Executive order that improves our government's system for classifying information vital to our nation's security. The order enhances protection for national security information without permitting excessive classification of documents by the Government.

It is essential for our citizens to be informed about their government's activities, but it is also essential to protect certain sensitive information when disclosure could harm the security of all our citizens. This order establishes improved standards and procedures to achieve the proper balance between these two important objectives and permits the Government to classify only that information whose unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to damage America's security. Limiting classification to the minimum necessary to protect the national security will enhance our ability to protect information that is properly classified.

The order expressly -- and properly -- prohibits use of classification to hide violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error; to prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency; to restrain competition; or to prevent or delay the public release of information that does not require national security protection. Basic scientific research information not clearly related to the national security may not be classified, nor may information the Government does not own or control. Wherever possible, documents will be prepared in a manner that does not require classification.

The order also simplifies declassification. It maintains a modified system for the regular review of classified information, requiring our archivists to examine historically valuable classified records to make them available to historians and other researchers when no longer sensitive. In addition, the order retains a mandatory review system that permits citizens to request review of classified documents to determine if the documents may safely be disclosed.

Oversight is critical to an effective information security program, and the order I have signed today requires heads of relevant agencies to monitor this program closely and to train their employees in its requirements. The Information Security Oversight Office will continue its governmentwide monitoring and will report to me through the National Security Council to keep me apprised of the effectiveness of our oversight program.

This Executive order reflects a coordinated effort involving officials of the executive branch, Members of Congress, and representatives of concerned private organizations. The recommendations of all these persons and groups were extremely helpful. Protection of the security of the United States and all its citizens is the first and most solemn duty of every President. This order will improve my ability to meet this constitutional obligation, and I am grateful to all who assisted in its preparation.