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ARCHIVES Home

ARCHIVES Home

ARCHIVES  April 2006, Week 3

ARCHIVES April 2006, Week 3

Subject:

Reclassification of letters at NARA

From:

Richard Pearce-Moses <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Richard Pearce-Moses <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 18 Apr 2006 12:52:31 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (80 lines)

Today, SAA Council sent the Archivist of the United States the following
letter.

Dear Professor Weinstein:

Archivists share a passion and professional ethic for open access to
government records.  We believe that a citizen’s right to review public
records is a hallmark of democratic government.  This right allows citizens
to hold their public leaders accountable and to protect their rights and
privileges.

Archivists understand that access to some records must be limited in the
interests of national security and to protect individuals’ privacy.
However, recent news articles about efforts begun before you took office to
reclassify records, including references to a secret memorandum of
understanding, have raised a number of concerns.  We understand that these
reclassification efforts may be an attempt to correct errors of documents
mistakenly declassified.

At the same time, we are concerned that those agreements may have been an
effort to restrict access to information for reasons other than national
security.  Our concerns are reinforced by a portion of the agreement with
the Air Force that indicates the motivation was, in part, “to avoid the
attention and researcher complaints that may arise from removing material
that has already been available publicly from the open shelves for an
extended period of time.”  As Representative Christopher Shays said in a 14
March 2006 hearing, “Secrets are kept to protect the national security, not
to prevent embarrassment or protect Cold War bureaucrats from history's
judgment.”

We very much appreciate several actions that you have taken to balance the
public’s need to know against national security interests, including

&#8729; Halting all reclassification pending an audit to distinguish fact from
fiction and gather the information necessary to make intelligent, informed
decisions.

&#8729; Holding a meeting with national security agencies to establish a balance
between classification and access in a manner that is consistent with law,
regulation, and common sense.

&#8729; Calling for the resources necessary to restore access to government
records while protecting truly sensitive national security information from
unauthorized disclosure.

&#8729; Establishing transparent standards governing the review of previously
declassified records that have been available for research at the National
Archives.

&#8729; Publishing the memoranda of understanding between NARA and the Air Force
and NARA and the CIA, and stating publicly, “If records must be removed for
reasons of national security, the American people will always, at the very
least, know when it occurs and how many records are affected.”

The Society believes that only those documents that would pose a genuine
security threat if open should be reclassified, that all other documents be
left declassified, and that agreements with agencies restricting access to
be published.

On behalf of the members of Council of the Society of American Archivists,
I commend your efforts to support those principles.

Sincerley,


Richard Pearce-Moses
President, 2005-2006

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