July 21, 1998


                           THE WHITE HOUSE

                    Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                              July 21, 1998

                           PRESS BRIEFING
                            MIKE MCCURRY     

                          The Briefing Room


	     Q	  Mike, it recently came to light that the FBI has 
been exempted from the President's declassification order of three 
years ago.  Does the President know about this?  Is he disappointed?  
What's the situation?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  The President -- I don't know whether he 
directly knew about it, but obviously the White House did know about 
it because of this domestic law enforcement role that the FBI plays 
because of its special responsibilities to protect the integrity of 
the investigative work and the privacy of American citizens.  There 
were exemptions granted to aspects of the declassification order.  
The Attorney General requested that and did receive the waiver from 
the 1995 executive order's requirements for automatic 
declassification.  That exemption does not mean that the records will 
not be eventually declassified and, in fact, the FBI is committed to 
undertaking a systematic review in order to declassify as many of 
them as possible.  I am told you can get further on that at FBI.
	     Q	  So he doesn't think that this is a violation of the 
spirit of the --
	     MR. MCCURRY:  He understands for law enforcement 
reasons, the exemption that was granted, but the principle is the 
same, which is that the government needs to move to grant greater 
accessibility and encourage greater understanding across a broad 
range of issues.  You saw the Director of Central Intelligence 
address that same issue recently and talk about how they're trying to 
set some priorities there.  We are going to have to keep at this, 
because the task is enormous.


	     Q	  Mike, back on the declassification issue.  Just 
because a document's declassified doesn't mean that it becomes 
public.  Can you explain why declassifying a document implicates 
privacy interests?
	     MR. MCCURRY:  I'm not sure I understand the question.  
You could declassify and once it is declassified, it can be placed in 
public domain.  The barrier that exists normally to making things 
publicly available has been declassification, particularly in the 
records we are talking about.
	     Q	  Well, there are all kinds of government documents 
that aren't classified that you can't get under privacy act --
	     MR. MCCURRY:  Many of these exact records at the FBI are 
of that nature; they have not been classified for national security 
purposes, but they are considered law-enforcement sensitive.  And 
that has to do wit the nature in which the Bureau and other law 
enforcement agencies maintain their records.