National Archives identifies 25,000 improperly removed docs

Fully a third of the document re-classified by the Air Force, CIA and other agencies did not meet even minimal standards for removal, Archives says.

Fully a third of documents pulled from the National Archives for supposed national security reasons should not have been removed, the Archives' audit found. The New York Times reports that even of the remaining two-thirds, there was little to recommend removal.

[R]emoval of the remaining two-thirds was technically justified, though many had already been published or contained old secrets with little practical import.

Even withdrawing those documents that included truly significant secrets may have done more harm than good by calling new attention to the sensitivity of records that researchers had read and photocopied for years, the officials said.

"The irony is that some of these reviews have actually exacerbated any possible damage to national security," said J. William Leonard, head of the archives' Information Security Oversight Office and the government's overseer of classification of records.

The audit found that 25,315 documents were withdrawn from public access  and that 64 percent met the minimal criteria for classification. Top reclassifiers, in order: the Air Force, CIA, the Department of Energy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the presidential libraries, which are part of the National Archives system.

CIA reviewers deliberately classified some "purely unclassified" documents simply to obscure the removal of other documents they judged to be genuinely sensitive. In addition, the audit showed, some records that had always been unclassified were classified by C.I.A. reviewers — "often 50 years later" — because they contained a name of a C.I.A. official who had received a copy.

 

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