How the National Archives Struck a Secret Deal on Documents With the CIA





A top official at the National Archives and Records Administration said on Monday that the main purpose of the organization's controversial deal with the CIA was to make sure agents did not mishandle documents as they reviewed them for possible reclassification.

Last week the National Archives acknowledged that, soon after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it struck a secret, classified agreement with the Central Intelligence Agency spelling out how the two federal agencies would work together to remove documents from the archives' shelves for the purpose of reclassification. Since the deal became public, the archives has moved quickly to denounce it and to push to declassify the agreement, which is now available online.

Allen Weinstein, who has been the archives' director since last year, has put a stop to any further removal of documents for reclassification, pending an audit of the process. A report on that audit is expected to be released on Wednesday.

In an interview on Monday, Michael J. Kurtz, an assistant archivist who signed the agreement on behalf of the archives, discussed how the deal had come to be.

"You need to go back in time to about 2000," he said. "We had some concerns here at the archives about the way the CIA was handling some of the records as they were going about their review work in dealing with" an executive order about classified information signed in 1995 by President Bill Clinton. The order gave a broad mandate to declassify federal records, some going back decades.

"The thrust of the emphasis of the National Archives in forging an agreement with the CIA was to codify exactly what procedures [would be used] and how records would be properly handled," he added. The goal, he said, "was to ensure the proper handling of the records." ...



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