In July 2020 I posted a status update on the impact of the Government facility closures caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic on the work of the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP).
It has now been just over a year since those closures began. In the late summer of 2020, the leadership of the National Archives allowed limited access to the National Archives Building for staff whose work could not be accomplished remotely but could be accomplished safely on-site. As a result, I was able to return to ISCAP work on a limited basis. This time is well-spent, connecting via the secure network to several ISCAP member agencies to adjudicate mandatory declassification review (MDR) appeals and preparing new appeals for consideration.
Since September 2020 the ISCAP has decided on four appeals, each of which resulted in the declassification of additional information. We will post the declassified versions of these documents on the ISCAP website when we have made them compliant with the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The National Archives Building where the ISCAP meets remains closed to non-NARA staff and the ISCAP is still unable to meet in person. The pandemic has led to new ISCAP processes for the adjudication of ISCAP appeals via classified network. However, this process is not without its challenges. First, not every ISCAP member agency has regular access to the secure network due to continued building entry restrictions. Second, the resolution of issues that once were discussed and resolved quickly around a conference table now can take days or weeks of classified email exchanges. While the technology exists for classified video-teleconferencing, that technology is not available to the ISCAP staff nor all the members.
Consider everything we have experienced over the last year: the deaths of family members; the loss of employment for many; prolonged illness; the disruption of school; shocking violence at the U.S. Capitol; the unprecedented development and distribution of vaccines. I ask that ISCAP appellants place the delay of the adjudication of MDR appeals in perspective and that they understand that the ISCAP staff and member agencies remain committed to accomplishing their responsibilities on behalf of the American people.