Reclassification Program at National Archives Exposed

02.21.06 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

U.S. military and intelligence agencies have assigned personnel to review and reclassify declassified historical records at the National Archives where they have withdrawn thousands of records from public access.

The seven year old secret program was reported today on the front page of the New York Times.

See “U.S. Reclassifies Many Documents in Secret Review” by Scott Shane, New York Times, February 21.

A detailed examination of the background and conduct of the reclassification program was prepared by historian Matthew M. Aid and posted on the web site of the National Security Archive today.

The Archive also posted several documents that have been withdrawn from public access under the secret review program.

An effort by historians is underway to enlist the Information Security Oversight Office and congressional oversight committees to check the unsupervised reclassification activity.

See “Declassification in Reverse: The Pentagon and the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Secret Historical Document Reclassification Program,” National Security Archive, February 21.

“Worried that sensitive information may have been improperly declassified in the late 1990s, government agencies took to scrubbing public records at the National Archives and elsewhere, pulling untold thousands of public records for ‘review’ and possible reclassification,” I wrote last March in Slate.

“Many 30- or 50-year-old archival collections are a shadow of what they were just a few years ago.”

A National Archives official challenged the accuracy of this claim at the time, but it now appears to be validated.

See “The Age of Missing Information” by Steven Aftergood, Slate, March 16, 2005.