Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Re-classifying the unclassified

While you were worrying about the Goat Boy declassifying the National Intelligence Estimate, the Air Force and the CIA have been busy classifying documents that had been on the open shelves of the National Archives for decades.

From the National Security Archive (a private watchdog group):

"Washington, D.C., 11 April 2006 - The National Archives and Records Administration secretly agreed to a covert effort, led by the Air Force, the CIA, and other still-hidden intelligence entities, to remove open-shelf archival records and reclassify them while disguising the results so that researchers would not complain, according to a previously secret Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The secret agreement, made between the Air Force and the National Archives, was declassified pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive and posted on the NARA website yesterday.


"The National Security Archive first learned of the existence of the agreement, classified SECRET/[codeword deleted], earlier this year, when Archive staff accompanied historian Matthew Aid to a meeting at NARA to complain about absurd reclassifications such as 50-year-old documents that had been widely published. On February 1, Archive analyst William Burr filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the document. NARA and Defense Department officials acknowledged the existence of the MOU at the March 14, 2006 hearing of a House Government Reform subcommittee chaired by Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Ct), but refused to discuss the substance of the MOU in public session.


"The reclassification activities at NARA began at the end of the Clinton administration. So far, more than 55,000 pages of declassified documents, dating back to the World War II era, have been removed from the open files. During the March 14 hearing, Congressman Shays noted that the reclassification program was not in the national interest. "This absurd effort to put the toothpaste back into the tube persists despite the growing consensus - supported by testimony before this Subcommittee - that from fifty to ninety percent of the material currently withheld should not be classified at all," Shays stated in his opening statement."

Thanks to reader Dave C. Phillips for the tip.

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