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ARCHIVES Home

ARCHIVES Home

ARCHIVES  April 2006, Week 2

ARCHIVES April 2006, Week 2

Subject:

Re: nara and reclassification

From:

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Reply-To:

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Date:

Fri, 14 Apr 2006 14:29:33 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (65 lines)

Richard and List,

Hmmm, I disagree with some of this.  I don't think what happened in the 
Nixon case was an isolated instance.  There is nothing at all to keep 
it from happening again, with Nixon's or any agency records, at NARA.  
Perhaps you missed the fact that on the same day NARA released the MOU, 
it announced the appointment of a director for the soon to be acquired 
Nixon Library in California.  He will have to work with some of the 
same players who were around when I testified in the Nixonm lawsuit.  
That, obviously, is why I keep bringing it up.  As to the don't look 
back advice, well, no one else has to look back, other than me, if they 
don't want to.  For me, what I went through was a searing experience 
and for better or worse, it affects the way I react to almost any 
archives or records related issue, now.

I agree that SAA needs to call for an independent NARA, blah blah blah. 
  The question is, how to achieve that.  For better or worse, NARA is a 
part of the executive branch, its head serves at the pleasure of the 
President, and the executive agencies are expected to "speak with one 
voice."  How are you going to ensure that NARA is able to concentrate 
on properly releasing historical records, when the rest of the 
government may have different objectives?

Also, as I've pointed out, U.S. Archivists tend to retire as agency 
head and never, ever speak up or out about unclassified matters which 
they dealt with during their tenure.  Despite the fact that retirement 
affords them some freedom of speech.  (I speak much more candidly than 
any former U.S. Archivist, and I'm still a Federal employee.  LOL.)  
That's their choice, but one which I believe harms NARA's ability to 
protect itself.  However, I recognize that there are a few people at 
NARA who actually hate the fact that I ever say anything about my 
experiences there, although there are others who appreciate my speaking 
out.  There is no one model for handling these things, we all handle 
our careers based on our individual assessments of what to do and what 
not to do.

SAA is very limited in what it can do in examining a case that involves 
national security classification issues.  It's not like SAA can 
subpoena the named and unnamed agencies in the MOU.  Or compel anyone 
involved in this matter to share any information, at all.  Consider the 
present environment, not just at NARA, but elsewhere, regarding these 
types of issues.  Isn't SAA mostly dependent on what others uncover?  
While I sympathize entirely with your objectives, I think you 
underestimate the difficulties of SAA independently getting at the 
facts with these particular players, in the current environment.  That 
is why I cited the Nixon case, where the facts in court filings were 
unclassified but still never examined by anyone from SAA.  That's not 
to say no one should try.  For now, I'm placing my trust in Bill 
Leonard of NARA's ISOO unit, who sounds as if he is trying to do the 
right thing under difficult circumstances.

Maarja

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