Thursday, April 27, 2006

Reclassification Update

We have been following the story of the reclassification of declassified government documents that had been publicly available at the National Archives.

It turns out, as some suspected, that many of these documents should have been left declassified.

An audit by the National Archives of more than 25,000 historical documents withdrawn from public access since 1999 found that more than a third did not contain sensitive information justifying classification, archives officials announced Wednesday.

They said the removal 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.

And there have been many more documents recalled than previously announced.

The audit found that 25,315 documents were withdrawn from public access, far more than the 9,000 they estimated in February, and that 64 percent met the minimal criteria for classification. The Air Force was responsible for the largest share--17,702--followed by the C.I.A., the Department of Energy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the presidential libraries, which are part of the National Archives system.

As for the perplexing reason why all these documents--some fossilized by age--were reclassified, one of my intrepid correspondents nailed the answer from the beginning.

It was a version of the old "hide a needle in a haystack" strategem:

Auditors also found that the CIA withdrew a "considerable number" of records it knew should be unclassified "in order to obfuscate" other records it was trying to protect.

2 Comments:

Blogger Meatball One said...

I'd agree...and to benignify the possible incriminating stuff with the harmless shit. Kind of a cross-branding tactic to make the skullduggerous look run-of-the-millish. Guess in fact that this too is a version of burying a needle in the haystack.

I'd have done the same if I was burying goodies.

4/29/2006 7:15 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

M1:

The "needle-in-a-haystack" ploy--that is what happened--according to the folks who wrote the National Archives' report.

I'd have done the same if I was burying goodies.

Jeez, you bury goodies amongst the chaff in your posts on a daily basis.

Oh. I guess that's what you just said.

4/29/2006 7:32 PM  

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