USIA website on FOIA documents

Those of you working with FOIA (Freedom of Inormation Act) materials may be interested in the following (from H-AmStdy):

>Date: Wed, 14 May 1997 14:36:46 -0400
>From: Bill Harwood <>

Dear Colleagues--Here is a copy of the USIA Website press release for consideration for distribution to the H-Amstdy world.

Overseas browsers might wish to consider this alternative address:

Bill Harwood, USIA, Washington, DC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Ben Cromer April 18, 1997 PHONE: 202-619-6144 News Release No. 035-97 FAX: 202-619-6988



Washington, D.C. -- The United States Information Agency (USIA) has unveiled a new Web site that provides the results of the Agency's effort to declassify thousands of classified government documents, demonstrating USIA's proactive approach to declassification. Ultimately, USIA will review more than 21 million pages of documents.

The Web site is but one of a number of ways that USIA is complying with Executive Order 12958 issued by President Clinton in April 1995. The Order outlines procedures for safeguarding, classifying, and declassifying national security information and is intended to reduce the amount of classified information, reduce the period of time that information is classified, and reduce barriers to declassifying information. The Order also requires agencies to facilitate public electronic access to declassified documents.

As a result of the Order, USIA established a Declassification Unit, part of the Office of the General Counsel's office, in 1996 to carry out the President's mandate. Since then, the Declassification Unit has declassified approximately one-fifth of the Agency's documents that were held in controlled storage because they contained classified national security information. The deadline for review and declassification of nearly all federal documents created before 1976 is April 2000.

All of USIA's declassified historical records shown on this Web site are stored at the Washington National Records Center in Suitland, Md. As additional documents are reviewed and declassified, new records will be added to the site. The release of specific documents will be determined by the Agency after it receives a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Requests should be addressed to the FOIA unit in USIA's Office of the General Counsel at 301 4th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20547.

The Declassification Unit's Web address is

To access the address, Web users should highlight the word Declassification on USIA's Home Page in order to bring up the Declassification Unit's pages. These pages enable users to search for declassified records via a user- friendly database. The search is guided by a keyword table of topics accessed from the individual declassified documents. The pages also offer brief descriptions of the Declassification Unit, its mission and its operations and serve to alert the public to information no longer classified and now available for release, a key goal of USIA's declassification effort.

USIA's Web site includes the most up-to-date listing of USIA's declassified records because the information comes directly from the Declassification Unit's database. Agency declassifiers enter research information about newly declassified materials in this database which is linked to USIA's Web site. Moreover, information about newly-declassified USIA materials will be posted on the Web site shortly after review by the Declassification Unit.

The Web site provides descriptive and bibliographic data about declassified documents promptly and at low cost to the Agency and to the American taxpayer with minimal privacy or security concerns. Journalists, historians, and the general public are encouraged to visit the USIA Web site to learn more about USIA's Declassification Unit and discover how technology is helps create a more transparent government.

The USIA Web site is a follow-on activity to a government-wide conference on declassification of federal documents, hosted by USIA in December 1996, that also included the CIA, the National Security Agency, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Navy.

[For more information about USIA's declassification project, contact Ben Cromer by phone (202-619-6144), fax (202-619-6988), or E-mail (].

The United States Information Agency, headed by Dr. Joseph Duffey, is an independent foreign affairs agency within the executive branch that explains and supports U.S. foreign policy and national security interests abroad through a wide range of information programs. The Agency promotes mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through a series of educational and cultural exchange activities.

USIA's programs include the Voice of America, Radio and TV Marti, the WORLDNET satellite television system, the daily Washington File newswire, the Fulbright scholarship program, the International Visitor Program, the U.S. Speakers Abroad program, three Foreign Press Centers in the United States, and a network of overseas resource and cultural centers. The Agency has 190 posts in 141 countries.

The United States Information Agency has created both a domestic USIA server and an overseas USIS server to meet legal restrictions which prohibit the domestic dissemination of agency-produced materials intended for foreign audiences. The USIA domestic server can be accessed through

or through most search engines on the Internet.

Bill Harwood

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