Covert Program to Hide Reclassification from Public


Richard Moore

     Click here to view the secret agreement:

     Secret Agreement Reveals Covert Program to Hide Reclassification 
from Public

       National Archives Signed Deal with Air Force to Disguise
       Re-review of Open Files and Mislead Researchers on
       Reasons for Withdrawing Previously Open Records.
       March 2002 Memorandum of Understanding Released
       Through FOIA Request, After Grilling of National Archivist
       During Congressional Hearing March 14.
       For more information contact:
       Thomas Blanton/William Burr/Meredith Fuchs

Declassification in Reverse
     CIA Removes 50 Year Old Documents From Open Stacks at National Archives

"U.S. Reclassifies Many Documents in Secret Review"

By Scott Shane
New York Times
February 21, 2006
"Classifiying Toothpaste"

Washington Post
February 27, 2006
     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 heavily excised MOU, signed by assistant archivist Michael 
Kurtz in March 2002, reveals that the National Archives agreed that 
the existence of the program was to be kept secret as long as 
possible: "it is in the interests of both [excised] and the National 
Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to avoid the attention and 
researcher complaints that may arise from removing material that has 
already been publicly available," states the MOU. NARA agreed that 
the withdrawal sheets indicating the removal of documents would 
conceal any reference to the program and "any reason for the 
withholding of documents."
     NARA also agreed to conceal the identities of the intelligence 
personnel who were reviewing and removing the documents, according to 
the agreement, including from NARA's own staff. "NARA will not 
disclose the true reason for the presence of [deleted agency] AFDO 
[deleted] personnel at the Archives, to include disclosure to persons 
within NARA who do not have a validated need-to-know."
     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. (Click here to read excerpts from the March 14 
     During the hearing, Archivist of the United States Allen 
Weinstein suffered persistent questioning about the MOU from Chairman 
Shays and other members of the Committee, to which Dr. Weinstein 
could only reply "it's classified."
     "This secret agreement reveals nothing less than a covert 
operation to white-out the nation's history, aided and abetted by the 
National Archives," said National Security Archive executive director 
Thomas Blanton.
     The excised portions of the MOU released yesterday apparently 
still hide other intelligence entities involved with the Air Force 
and the CIA in reclassifying public records. The MOU was originally 
classified at the codeword level, but the codeword itself remains 
classified, according to the markings on the released MOU.
     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.
     According to National Security Archive historian William Burr, 
concern over references in some declassified records to various 
aerial reconnaissance systems that Air Force has used over the years, 
such as the U-2 and the earlier GENETRIX balloon program, may have 
triggered the reclassification project. Censored sections of the MOU, 
he noted, could refer to operations of the National Security Agency. 
If the NSA was involved, then perhaps the re-review referenced in the 
MOU focused on specialized intelligence activities.
     In February 2002, a recruitment notice shows that the Raytheon 
Corporation received a contract from the Air Force to conduct the 
reclassification review and that the project team would include at 
least 20 people.
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