Review of Accessioned Email

NARA is receiving more schedules and NA-1005 forms for Federal Records Act (FRA) email scheduled under a Capstone approach, raising questions about how we screen permanent email for public access and what agencies and requesters can expect when having access to these records.

While we have taken legal custody of a number of Federal agency email records to date, we have also accessioned large volumes of emails from the White House under the Presidential Records Act (PRA) since the Reagan administration. Email use has increased with each subsequent administration, from 20 million PRA emails generated by the Clinton administration to 300 million PRA emails from the Obama administration. NARA also accessions the FRA emails from the Federal components of the Executive Office of the President.

This process has given us significant experience preserving and providing public access to email collections with sensitive information, including protecting personal privacy information by applying FOIA exemption (b)(6).

Generally, Federal agency emails will not be transferred to us until they are between 15 and 25 years old. We have issued an FAQ with information on how to calculate transfer dates.

When an agency initiates a transfer of permanent email, the Agency Records Officer must indicate any FOIA exemptions that might apply on the request to transfer records to the National Archives.  

NARA archivists conduct a careful review to determine what information can be released and what can be withheld under an applicable FOIA exemption when they process closed records for public access.

Note, however, NARA generally does not apply FOIA exemption (b)(5) to archival records, which, in any event, now expires after 25 years for information subject to the deliberative process privilege.  We also do not  consult with the originating agency when releasing unclassified records.

One thought on “Review of Accessioned Email

  1. Does this 15-25 year transfer rule apply to head of department emails as well?

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