Allen Weinstein: Commended by the National Coalition for History

Historians in the News

After learning of the existence of yet another secret agreement just this last week -- this one between NARA and the CIA -- Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein has released a redacted version of that agreement and has pledged that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) would no longer enter into secret agreements with government agencies that would allow them to withdraw documents from the archives for national-security reasons. The NARA/CIA agreement that was discovered as a result of the ongoing audit of the reclassification program. According to NARA insiders, the October 2001 CIA agreement that was entered into shortly after the 9/11 tragedy appears "to be the model" from which other agreements such as the March 2002 agreement between NARA and the Air Force that was released last week (see "NARA Releases Redacted Version of "Classified or Sensitive" Records Memo" in NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE Vol 12, # 18; 14 April 2006).

Weinstein stated, "There can never be a classified aspect to our mission. Classified agreements are the antithesis of our reason for being. If records must be removed for reasons of national security, the American people will always, at the very least, know when it occurs and how many records are affected." Furthermore, stated the Archivist, "Our focus is on the preservation of records and ensuring their availability to the American public while at the same time fulfilling the peoples expectation that we will properly safeguard the classified records entrusted to out custody. Agencies have the prerogative to classify their requests to the National Archives if disclosure of the reasons why they are asking us to take action would cause identifiable damage to national security. However, what we do in response to such requests, and how we do it, will always be as transparent as possible."

Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archives who last week criticized the agreement entered into by Weinstein' predecessor, John Carlin, praised Weinstein. "He's doing the right thing, no more secret agreements to classify open files" said Blanton. Steven Aftergood, director of the anti-secrecy project at the Federation of American Scientists, recently characterized the episode as "a genuine scandal for the archives" also praised Weinstein: "He did not attempt to deny the existence of the problem, and he did not attempt to evade responsibility for it...instead he moved to fix it, and that is something we don't see very often these days." In a letter to Weinstein, the Society for American Archivists (SAA) also thanked the Archivist for "taking the several actions you have taken to balance the public's need to know against national security interests."

John W. Carlin, Weinstein's predecessor who ran the archives from 1995 to 2005 also has issued a statement fully supporting Weinstein's "quick response." In that statement Carlin denies knowledge of the reclassification program and asserts that he was "shocked" to learn of them when he read about the program in a February New York Times article. NARA insiders report that Carlin was briefed but has apparently forgotten about it. According to these sources, Carlin authorized the agreements but he did not personally read them.

Weinstein stated that the existing secret MOU's will soon be replaced with thoroughly transparent versions that will be promulgated as a change to "Classified national Security Information Directive No #1 (32 CFR Part 2001) following formal interagency coordination and an opportunity for public comment. But for the time being, a moratorium on the withdrawal of documents remains in place and an audit of the program is being conducted by the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO). The audit is expected to be completed and a report released 26 April 2006.

For the link to the NARA press release and statement of Archivist Weinstein, go to: http://www.archives.gov/press/press-releases/2006/nr06-92.html . For additional background on the MOU's, go to: http://www.archives.gov/declassification/background.html .

Read entire article at National Coalition for History

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