NSA Declassifies 200 Year Old Report

The National Security Agency announced yesterday that it has declassified a report that is over two hundred years old.

The newly declassified report, entitled “Cryptology: Instruction Book on the Art of Secret Writing,” dates from 1809.  It is part of a collection of 50,000 pages of historic records that have just been declassified by NSA and transferred to the National Archives.

The NSA said the new release demonstrated its “commitment to meeting the requirements” of President Obama’s January 2009 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government.

The bulk of the newly released documents are from World War II and the early post-War era. (NSA itself was established in 1952.)  A list of titles released to the National Archives is here (pdf).

Last April, the Central Intelligence Agency declassified several documents on the use of “invisible ink” that dated from the World War I era.  But those were not even a century old.

Meanwhile, in more recent developments, the case of former NSA official Thomas A. Drake, who is charged with unlawful retention of classified information, is said to be “changing hour by hour.”

On Sunday, the government told the court (pdf) it had decided to withdraw several of its proposed exhibits rather than declassify them for trial, Politico reported (“Feds pare back NSA leak case to shield technology” by Josh Gerstein, June 6).

As a consequence, prosecutors are now seeking a plea bargain, the Washington Post reported, but Drake has twice refused to accept their offer (“Ex-NSA manager has reportedly twice rejected plea bargains in Espionage Act case” by Ellen Nakashima, June 9).

The trial of Thomas Drake is currently still scheduled to begin in Baltimore on Monday, June 13.

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