About Quizzes

Declassified Government Programs

Classification of U.S. government communications began as early as the 1700s, but the modern classification system, which involves differing levels, was established with Executive Order (EO) 8381, issued March 22, 1940. Since that time, numerous Presidents have issued EOs that amended the classification and declassification system. The most recent, Executive Order 13526, issued by President Obama on December 30, 2009, states that "Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their Government."

The Order created a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information, including the provision that information should become declassified systematically as soon as practicable. The National Declassification Center was established to implement the directives of EO 13526.

The National Declassification Center, a part of the National Archives, publishes updated lists of recently declassified documents and contains information about how to access declassified documents. Its mission is to "advance the declassification and public release of historically valuable permanent records while maintaining national security."




Information created or received by an agency of the federal government or a government contractor that would damage national security if improperly released. Default classification is for 10 years. Rarely, some information may be classified for as long as 50 or 75 years.

Information that has had its classification removed. Declassification review is automatic at 25 years.

Sources & Further Reading

National Declassification Center: www.archives.gov/declassification/ndc