Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

National Security Law Research Guide

This guide covers U.S. military, espionage, homeland security, and classification/declassification law.

Classification & Declassification of Government Documents

For the most part, individual federal agencies decide whether to classify or declassify information they create.  They do so on the basis of Exec. Order No. 13,526, 75 Fed. Reg. 707 (Dec. 29, 2009) and guidance issued by the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives and Records Administration (ISOO).  Appeals of classification decisions are decided by the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel.

Statutes Related to Classified Information

  • 50 U.S.C. §§ 3161-64 (Westlaw: 50 USCA §§ 3161-64) (Lexis: 50 USCS §§ 3161-64) (providing the procedural outlines for the classification of information and the safeguarding of classified information).
  • 42 U.S.C. §§ 2161-69 (Westlaw: 42 USCA §§ 2161-69) (Lexis: 42 USCS §§ 2161-69) (prescribe procedures for the classification and safeguarding of information related to nuclear weapons and atomic energy).
  • 18 U.S.C. § 798 (Westlaw: 18 USCA § 798) (Lexis: 18 USCS § 798) (criminalizing the communication of classified information to an unauthorized person).
  • Freedom of Information Act of 1966 (FOIA), Pub. L. 89-554, 80 Stat. 383, codified as amended at 5 U.S.C. § 552 (Westlaw: 5 USCA § 552) (Lexis: 5 USCS § 552) (permitting nondisclosure of government information that is "(A) specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and (B) are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive order." 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1)).

Declassified Documents Databases