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ARCHIVES Home

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ARCHIVES  April 2006, Week 3

ARCHIVES April 2006, Week 3

Subject:

Reaction to the Chronicle article on NARA reclassification controversy

From:

[log in to unmask]

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Wed, 19 Apr 2006 11:07:28 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (58 lines)

Yes, the Chronicle of Higher Education article on NARA is interesting.  
It quotes Steve Aftergood who compiles and puts out the Secrecy News 
newsletter:   "'This whole episode has been a genuine scandal for the 
archives,' said Steven Aftergood, who directs a project at the 
Federation of American Scientists that tracks government secrecy.

'One expects a certain degree of mischief from the CIA and other 
agencies -- they mislead people all the time,' said Mr. Aftergood. 
'That has been not been the normal experience at the archives.'"

I agree with Mr. Aftergood that Dr. Weinstein has handled this well so 
far:  "'He did not attempt to deny the existence of the problem, and he 
did not attempt to evade responsibility for it,' Mr. Aftergood said. 
'Instead he moved to fix it, and that is something that we don't see 
very often these days.'"

I noted in the CHE the comments by Susan Cooper, spokeswoman for NARA.  
"'We really are going to be much more transparent in our actions with 
agencies,' she added. 'Our mission is to make documents available, and 
we take that very seriously.'"  A different woman who once held the 
position of NARA spokesperson before Cooper reassured the New York 
Times in 1991 that Nixon did not contest the release of Watergate 
Special Prosecutor Tapes.  In fact, Nixon did submit a list of 70 
requested deletions to those tapes.  NARA originally did not reveal 
Nixon's involvement, even in court fillings, but belatedly had to admit 
later that it had occurred.  Whether the spokeswoman knew in 1991 about 
Nixon's intervention, I cannot say.  From what I can tell, neither the 
spokeswoman employed by NARA in 1991 or any successor to her ever put 
out a statement about the Nixon lawsuit that was reassuring to the 
archivists actually doing the work with his records.  No surprise, I 
suppose -- as I keep saying, Washington is a tough town.  That doesn't 
mean we shouldn't all strive for the highest standards.  That's one 
reason the current controversy interests me so much.

(You all KNEW I couldn't post something about NARA without mentioned 
Nixon. LOL.)

Although the situation was different, archivists who are interested in 
issues of concealment also might consider the complaints made in 1969 
by Professor Francis Loewenheim.    To read more about that, as usual, 
I refer you to Professor Richard J. Cox's excellent overview, 
"America's Pyramids:  Presidents and Their Libraries," available at
www2.sis.pitt.edu/~rcox/AmericasPyramids.pdf

Maarja

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