Tuesday, April 11, 2006

No Institution Left Behind

From Discourse.net:

It's amazing. This administration corrupts everything it touches -- even librarians. And that's saying a lot, because librarians have been in the forefront of fighting against many of the objectionable aspects of this governments' information control policies. That's why it's such a shock to learn from The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) Blog that the National Archives Agreed to Coverup Reclassification Scheme:

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) secretly agreed to hide from researchers attempts by intelligence and defense agencies to reclassify thousands of documents that had already been publicly released, some for as long as 50 years. Through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the National Security Archive (the Archive) obtained a secret memorandum of understanding (MOU; pdf) between NARA, the Air Force, the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies whose existence has been covered up through redactions.

The National Security Archive site's explanation of what it discovered says that the program started four years ago, in 2002. The deal to which the Archives agreed could hardly be more explicit in its goals, among them "to avoid the attention and researcher complaints that may arise from removing material that has already been publicly available."

I should note that although this agreement is dated 2002, the National Security Archive's article suggests the reclassification program may have started "at the end of the Clinton administration" although I'm unclear on what they base that. Not that it matters; it's wrong as a general matter.

I won't go so far as to say that there are no circumstances in which an accidentally declassified document should be pulled from the shelves; I just think at most they're very rare. And it's evident that this program, which swept up thousands of documents, many of no possible national security value, was nowhere near reasonable.

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