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ARCHIVES Home

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ARCHIVES  April 2006, Week 4

ARCHIVES April 2006, Week 4

Subject:

Re: NARA and reclassification

From:

Peter Hirtle <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Peter Hirtle <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 22 Apr 2006 11:34:52 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (74 lines)

I have read over again all of the postings on the reclassification 
fiasco, and I think that there is actually a surprising amount of 
agreement among the people who have spoken out on this.  Everyone 
wants a strong, independent NARA that does good things - there is 
just some debate on the best way to get there.  And I think that 
everyone feels that some stupid things have happened.  No one should 
be reclassifying documents that have been published in the FRUS - and 
therefore making every library that owns a set technically in 
violation of the espionage laws.  Fortunately, it wasn't NARA staff 
that made that asinine decision (though ISOO staff should have caught it).

Everyone (including Allen Weinstein) is agreed as well there 
shouldn't be an MOU that is first, classified and second, one in 
which NARA agrees that it not only won't tell researchers about what 
it is doing, it won't even tell other NARA staff (possibly including 
the Archivist).  It is an interesting question how such a thing 
occurred, and after we get the ISOO audit, we might have a better 
idea of what happened.  Is the problem, for example, that political 
pressure was applied to a weak agency?  Or was ISOO itself 
understaffed to such an extent that it could not properly monitor the 
reclassification effort as it said that it would do in its 2003 annual report?

In addition to the list of issues that Bruce Montgomery provided, the 
big one I see coming down the road is a possible revision of 
Executive Order 13292 (which itself modified Executive Order 
12958).  Most commentators have noted that 13292 gave the VP the 
right to declassify documents (and maybe get Scooter Libby off the 
hook), but it also postponed automatic declassfication until 31 
December 2006.  Anyone care to guess whether an administration 
apparently addicted to secrecy will allow automatic declassification 
to resume?  That, combined with the Kyl Amendment (which John Carlin 
testified would gut declassification at NARA), poses the biggest 
threat to openness.

As I read the record, NARA under first John Carlin and now Allen 
Weinstein has become a friend of openness and an opponent of 
inappropriate government secrecy.  It makes the existence of the 
classified MOU all the more bizarre.

These are important issues, and unfortunately there are too few 
archivists who monitor them.  We have relied too long on the 
expertise of Anne van Camp, David Wallace, Bruce Montgomery, and 
Richard Cox (to name a few) with regards to issues of secrecy and 
openness.  I hope that other archivists can join them in developing 
for SAA proper archival responses to the challenges to openness that 
I know we will face in the future.

Peter



Peter B. Hirtle
IRIS Technology Strategist and
   CUL Intellectual Property Officer
Instruction, Research, and Information Services Division
Cornell University Library
309 Uris Library
Ithaca, NY  14853
[log in to unmask]
607/255-4033 (ph)
607/255-7922 (fax)

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