Can technology erode a mountain of classified documents?

DARPA asks for input on how to declassify documents more efficiently

The U.S. government is looking for new technologies to help sift through and declassify mountains of Defense Department documents. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has released a request for information for methods to help the National Declassification Center work more efficiently.

President Obama’s issued an executive order in 2009, called “Classified National Security Information,” that emphasized the need for methods to improve the ability of departments and agencies to identify still-sensitive information while declassifying as much information as possible and making it available to the public.

To meet this goal, the RFI invites industry and universities to submit white papers with ideas and concepts describing possible new technologies or innovations of existing approaches. Spencer Ackerman with Wired’s Danger Room speculated that many of the technologies are likely to be semantic keyword search algorithms, but that there may be other possibilities as well. Ackerman noted that NDC chief Neil Carmichael had said in 2009 that his key challenge is not the amount of data but the sheer variety of media — paper, microfilm, microform, film or electronic data — from which to declassify information.

The deadline for RFI submissions is Oct. 10.

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