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ARCHIVES Home

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ARCHIVES  April 2006, Week 2

ARCHIVES April 2006, Week 2

Subject:

Re: nara and reclassification

From:

Richard Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Fri, 14 Apr 2006 17:57:49 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (133 lines)

Maarja, first, we need to look ahead not back; the Nixon is an interesting historic case with lots of interesting lessons, but we need to focus on what is going on at present.  Second, SAA needs to issue a statement calling for a strong, independent NARA.  Third, SAA needs to be involved in looking at what has actually occured in this reclassification case and be critical of NARA if warranted.  Fourth, the archival profession needs to call for a stronger NARA as well.

--
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/

 -------------- Original message ----------------------
From: [log in to unmask]
> Richard and List:
> 
> Just as I was troubled during my own career at NARA by the though of 
> representing deletions requested by Nixon as independent archival 
> withdrawals, so too am I troubled by what news stories suggest about 
> the NARA AF MOU.  We have yet to hear a good explanation from NARA 
> about the reclassification matter.  Who knows how much NARA will be 
> able to tell the public.
> 
> In the Nixon case, no one argued that Nixon did not have a right to ask 
> NARA to withhold information pending a determination by the 
> Presidential Materials Review Board.  Nixon and now his estate had 
> every right to disagree with archival decisions on what to release from 
> White House records.  But, in my view (shared by almost all of my 
> 1989-era staff level colleagues), any such disagreement had to be 
> handled srupulouosly, through regulatory channels, in order to protect 
> the overall credibility of NARA's archival screening efforts.  I 
> actually said to a colleague then and later testified under oath about 
> my comment that "we weren't serving the former President very well" by 
> considering agency actions that would raise questions about the 
> handling of tapes dealing with the Watergate coverup.
> 
> (I like what my current boss, Comptroller General David M. Walker, said 
> in a speech last year about other issues, unrelated to what I'm 
> describing here:  "We need leaders who have the integrity to lead by 
> example and to practice what they preach, leaders who recognize that 
> the law is the floor of acceptable conduct and who strive to meet a 
> higher standard.")
> 
> The same is true with declassification/reclassification.  I can see how 
> outside agencies (which, as was Nixon, are parties with a vested 
> interest in records they created or have equities in) might view 
> declassification issues differently than NARA.   Bruce Craig raises a 
> good question in his newsletter:
> 
> "This raises the issue: why in the first place did the parties to the 
> agreement believe it a necessity to keep the re_review "secret."   
> There are other very public re-reviews being conducted by such agencies 
> as the
> Department of Energy that is carrying out the Congressionally mandated 
> Kyle-Lott review of inadvertent releases relating to nuclear energy and 
> weapons programs."
> 
> It's unclear to me why the reported NARA effort by AF et al. was not 
> handled more transparently (simply in terms of admitting to its 
> existence and providing unclassified details of procedures or 
> protocols), or at least more like the DOE effort.  After all, it's not 
> like any researcher could compel NARA or an agency with equities to 
> release something that should  not have been released.  The power, and 
> therefore the necessary trust, lies in the  hands of those holding the 
> records, not those clamoring for there release.  Given the nature of 
> the effort described in the MOU, I see NARA really being in a bind 
> here.  No matter what it says, people are going to ask, well, what else 
> has been concealed.  That's sad for me to see.  I can't imagine the 
> pressure it must have faced in order to go along with this.
> 
> Richard, what would you suggest SAA do in this matter?  I tend to agree 
> that it should issue a statement, but it needs to be carefully crafted.
> 
> I know back in 1992-1993, as the Nixon case unfolded, I kept looking 
> for SAA to comment.  However, as I read through the court pleadings and 
> deposition transcripts, I came to recognize that not all the NARA 
> players were on the same page.  Some of what I saw in the early court 
> filings surprised me.  People such as John Fawcett and Nancy Smith 
> helped prepare the initial, July 1992 responses to interrogatories and 
> document production requests in Kutler v. Wilson.  They never consulted 
> with veteran former Nixon Project staff, such as Fred Graboske or me.
> 
> John Fawcett was one of the first NARA officials to testify in the 
> Nixon tapes case.  Fred Graboske and I testified later, in August and 
> September 1992, recounting the 1989 meeting among Fawcett and Nixon 
> Project archivists.  (Fred wasn't there but testified about how he 
> discussed the meeting with me and with Paul Schmidt right after it 
> occurred.)  I don't know of anyone from SAA who went to the courthouse 
> in 1992 or 1993 to read through all the stuff I read there, although I 
> suppose they could have done so.  Absent an effort to learn what was 
> said under oath, any SAA reaction to the Nixon problems would have been 
> based on second-hand accounts.  And SAA hardly was in a position to 
> start picking and choosing among varying positions voiced by NARA 
> employees.  Absent an attempt to get into the nitty gritty of the 
> issues buried in the court filings, which would have been complicated 
> but would have served NARA well, all SAA then could do was issue 
> general statements.
> 
> Maarja
> 
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Richard Cox <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Fri, 14 Apr 2006 15:35:48 +0000
> Subject: nara and reclassification
> 
> 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.
> 

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