NARA Backs Away from CIA Email Destruction Proposal

11.26.14 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The National Archives and Records Administration told the Central Intelligence Agency last week that it was withholding approval of a CIA proposal to allow the destruction of the email records of all but 22 senior Agency officials.

“NARA intends to reassess the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) proposal for the disposition of non-senior email accounts,” wrote Paul M. Wester, Jr., Chief Records Officer at NARA in a November 20 letter to Joseph Lambert, Director of Information Management Services at CIA.

“Based on comments from Members of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a number of public interest groups, we are concerned about the scope of the proposed schedule and the proposed retention periods,” Mr. Wester wrote.

Based on a preliminary review of the CIA proposal, NARA had initially recommended approval of the plan, Secrecy News reported last month. (“CIA Asks to Destroy Email of Non-Senior Officials,” October 1.)

But critical comments that were submitted to NARA — from the Federation of American Scientists, Openthegovernment.org and other public interest groups and individuals, the Department of Defense Chief Defense Counsel, and especially from Senators Feinstein and Chambliss, the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Senators Wyden, Udall and Heinrich, Members of the Committee — turned the tide and blocked the proposal in its current form.

“We will hold a public meeting on this schedule in the coming months to address the comments raise by you and others and to share how NARA is moving forward,” wrote Margaret Hawkins of NARA Records Management Services in an email message today. “This meeting will be announced in the Federal Register and will be open to all commenters and the public.”

For related coverage, see: “The CIA Wants To Delete Old Email; Critics Say ‘Not So Fast'” by David Welna, NPR All Things Considered, November 20; “Top Senators Oppose CIA Move to Destroy Email” by Siobhan Gorman, Wall Street Journal, November 19; “National Archives: Ok, So Maybe Letting The CIA Destroy Emails Wasn’t A Great Idea” by Ali Watkins, Huffington Post, November 21; and “Furor Over CIA Shake-Up of Email System” by Adam Klasfeld, Courthouse News Service, November 7.