CIA Has Lost Records on CBS Reporter Murdered in Greece in 1948





The Central Intelligence Agency has lost documents concerning its investigation of the mysterious 1948 murder of CBS reporter George Polk, and destroyed its file on FOIA requests for Polk documents, according to a letter from Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein. In June 2006, the Archive asked the CIA and the National Archives to investigate the possibility that the CIA had lost or destroyed records on the Polk case.

Polk, a CBS reporter based in Greece at the height of its left-right civil war, was murdered by unknown assailants in 1948. At the request of members of the Polk family, the National Security Archive had asked the CIA to re-review CIA documents on the Polk case that had been released during the 1990s. The CIA found a number of documents for re-review but in December 2005 informed the Archive that nine of the documents, including memoranda to the Agency's director, had been destroyed. According to CIA Information and Privacy Coordinator Scott Koch's letter, "The original documents had been destroyed in accordance with approved National Archives and Records Administration records schedules." It was the CIA's response that prompted National Security Archive director Thomas S. Blanton to write letters to the Archivist of the United States and the Inspector General of the Central Intelligence Agency asking them to investigate the destruction of documents on the Polk case.

Last week, Dr. Weinstein informed the National Security Archive that the CIA is "unable to locate the original documents or information about their disposition." As the letter explains, the CIA FOIA case file had been destroyed in accordance with the records schedule; what has gone missing are the original file copies of the Polk-related documents (and whatever collection to which they belonged). That the CIA has determined that the documents cannot be found (and may well have been destroyed) raises troubling questions about CIA's historical records preservation policies. Why is the CIA losing what should have been permanent records? If the Polk documents were part of a larger system of records that was destroyed, what other historically significant records no longer exist? That the FOIA file which contained copies of the now-missing documents had also been destroyed also raises questions about this standard practice at federal agencies.

The National Security Archive won the George Polk Award in April 2000 for "piercing the self-serving veils of government secrecy."


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