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October 2, 2000

CIA Announces Declassification of 5 Million Pages

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON, Oct 2 (Reuters) - The CIA said on Monday that it released 5 million pages of declassified documents in fiscal year 2000, including post World War II reports from its spy division and photos of military installations.

The CIA's declassified release in fiscal 2000, which ended on Sept. 30, was larger than the 3 million pages released the previous year. It was in response to an executive order by President Bill Clinton requiring government records 25 years or older be reviewed for declassification.

"This is the largest release of formerly classified CIA documents ever," CIA Director George Tenet said in a statement.

The bulk of the CIA material was sent to the National Archives and Records Administration in the past week, some had been released earlier, and some went to the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, the CIA said.

Steven Aftergood, director of the government secrecy project at the Federation of American Scientists, said it was a positive sign that CIA was declassifying a larger amount of material, but was cautious about the value of it.

"The initial review of declassified documents last year (fiscal 1999) turned up a high proportion of junk that would be of no conceivable interest to anyone," he said.

"At the same time there were some scattered gems, and the more that they declassify, the more valuable material will eventually be included," Aftergood said.

Among the material released in Fiscal 1999 were many pages of administrative records that were not of any public interest, he said.

The more recent batch of CIA material includes about 700 film clips, mainly of international media broadcasts from the 1940s to 1960s. Those clips did not contain any classified material because they had been publicly broadcast, but had previously been stamped to be held because of copyright purposes, the CIA said.

Some film clips showed CIA management training, but not clandestine operations training, the CIA said.

The recently released material included reports from the CIA's Directorate of Operations, which operates the spy network, dated from 1947 through 1955 "which provide important insights on the role of intelligence in the post WWII period," the CIA said.

It also includes CIA intelligence analyst reports on world events from 1947 to the 1970s and ground photos of worldwide military facilities, individuals and events.

"Unlike most other agencies, somebody will actually look at every page that CIA declassifies because there is so little of it comparatively speaking," Aftergood said.

"I would like to see declassification taken out of their hands and assigned to an independent body," he added.

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