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ARCHIVES Home

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ARCHIVES  April 2006, Week 2

ARCHIVES April 2006, Week 2

Subject:

nara and reclassification

From:

Richard Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Fri, 14 Apr 2006 15:35:48 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (132 lines)

Below is another view into the Nara and reclassification case, and this view suggests a serious breach of professional ethics (in my opinion).  I do not believe SAA has issued a statement/position on the reclassification, and I urge members of SAA to communicate with SAA leadership to look into this case and take a position.

Here is a recent revelation about the case --

From: The National Security Archive [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On
Behalf Of National Security Archive
Sent: Tuesday, April 11, 2006 3:18 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Secret Agreement Reveals Covert Program to Hide Reclassification
from Public

National Security Archive Update, April 11, 2006

SECRET AGREEMENT REVEALS COVERT PROGRAM
TO HIDE RECLASSIFICATION FROM PUBLIC

National Archives Signed Deal with Air Force to Disguise
Re-review of Open Files and Mislead Researchers on
Reasons for Withdrawing Previously Open Records.

March 2002 Memorandum of Understanding Released
Through FOIA Request, After Grilling of National
Archivist During Congressional Hearing March 16.

For more information contact:
Thomas Blanton/William Burr/Meredith Fuchs
202/994-7000

http://www.nsarchive.org

Washington, D.C., 11 April 2006 - The National Archives and Records
Administration secretly agreed to a covert effort, led by the Air Force, the
CIA, and other still-hidden intelligence entities, to remove open-shelf
archival records and reclassify them while disguising the results so that
researchers would not complain, according to a previously secret Memorandum
of Understanding (MOU). The secret agreement, made between the Air Force and
the National Archives, was declassified pursuant to a Freedom of Information
Act request by the National Security Archive and posted on the NARA website
yesterday.

The heavily excised MOU, signed by assistant archivist Michael Kurtz in
March 2002, reveals that the National Archives agreed that the existence of
the program was to be kept secret as long as possible: "it is in the
interests of both [excised] and the National Archives and Records
Administration (NARA) to avoid the attention and researcher complaints that
may arise from removing material that has already been publicly available,"
states the MOU. NARA agreed that the withdrawal sheets indicating the
removal of documents would conceal any reference to the program and "any
reason for the withholding of documents."

NARA also agreed to conceal the identities of the intelligence personnel who
were reviewing and removing the documents, according to the agreement,
including from NARA's own staff. "NARA will not disclose the true reason for
the presence of [deleted agency] AFDO [deleted] personnel at the Archives,
to include disclosure to persons within NARA who do not have a validated
need-to-know."

The National Security Archive first learned of the existence of the
agreement, classified SECRET/[codeword deleted], earlier this year, when
Archive staff accompanied historian Matthew Aid to a meeting at NARA to
complain about absurd reclassifications such as 50-year-old documents that
had been widely published. On February 1, Archive analyst William Burr filed
a Freedom of Information Act request for the document. NARA and Defense
Department officials acknowledged the existence of the MOU at the March 14,
2006 hearing of a House Government Reform subcommittee chaired by Rep.
Christopher Shays (R-Ct), but refused to discuss the substance of the MOU in
public session.

During the hearing, Archivist of the United States Alan Weinstein suffered
persistent questioning about the MOU from Chairman Shays and other members
of the Committee, to which Dr. Weinstein could only reply "it's classified."

"This secret agreement reveals nothing less than a covert operation to
white-out the nation's history, aided and abetted by the National Archives,"
said National Security Archive executive director Thomas Blanton.

The excised portions of the MOU released yesterday apparently still hide
other intelligence entities involved with the Air Force and the CIA in
reclassifying public records. The MOU was originally classified at the
codeword level, but the codeword itself remains classified, according to the
markings on the released MOU.

The reclassification activities at NARA began at the end of the Clinton
administration. So far, more than 55,000 pages of declassified documents,
dating back to the World War II era, have been removed from the open files.
During the March 14 hearing, Congressman Shays noted that the
reclassification program was not in the national interest. "This absurd
effort to put the toothpaste back into the tube persists despite the growing
consensus - supported by testimony before this Subcommittee - that from
fifty to ninety percent of the material currently withheld should not be
classified at all," Shays stated in his opening statement.

According to National Security Archive historian William Burr, concern over
references in some declassified records to various aerial reconnaissance
systems that Air Force has used over the years, such as the U-2 and the
earlier GENETRIX balloon program, may have triggered the reclassification
project. Censored sections of the MOU, he noted, could refer to operations
of the National Security Agency. If the NSA was involved, then perhaps the
re-review referenced in the MOU focused on specialized intelligence
activities.

In February 2002, a recruitment notice shows that the Raytheon Corporation
received a contract from the Air Force to conduct the reclassification
review and that the project team would include at least 20 people.

http://www.nsarchive.org

--
Richard J. Cox
Professor
Department of Library and Information Sciences
School of Information Sciences
University of Pittsburgh
Editor, Records & Information Management Report
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Voice:  412-624-3245
FAX:    412-648-7001
e-mail: [log in to unmask]
homepage: http://www2.sis.pitt.edu/%7Ercox/

A posting from the Archives & Archivists LISTSERV List sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, www.archivists.org.
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