from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 39
April 17, 2008

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A memorandum of understanding signed this month by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Archivist is expected to enable the transfer of many permanently valuable historical CIA records that are 50 years old or older to the custody of the National Archives (NARA), officials of both agencies said today.

Up to now, "we haven't had a framework" for such transfers, said Joe Lambert, the new CIA chief information officer. And so, with few exceptions, "we haven't transferred anything [to the Archives] in the past." (Exceptions include certain CIA records related to the JFK assassination, Nazi war crimes, and a few other topics, as well as translations of foreign news reports.)

The new memorandum "lays the groundwork for routine transfer of CIA records" to the National Archives once they become 50 years old, said Assistant Archivist Michael J. Kurtz. "This will institutionalize the process."

The memorandum itself does not seem very promising. It imposes a number of binding requirements on NARA officials, including referral to CIA of any request for records that have not already been approved for public release. No binding requirements are imposed on CIA, beyond an open-ended commitment to "review" any such requests.

But Allen Weinstein, the Archivist of the United States, said the memorandum would pave the way for regular transfers of CIA records to the Archives, and would ultimately result in improved public access to those records.

"Access is a multi-step process," said Gary M. Stern, General Counsel at the National Archives. "Getting the records into the Archives is the first step."

Having "listened carefully to the words and the music, I was convinced that this [agreement] would serve the public interest," said Dr. Weinstein. "I wouldn't have signed it otherwise."

The memorandum's words, at least, can be found here:

CIA is expected to provide to NARA an index of records subject to transfer in the next few weeks, with actual transfers to follow sometime thereafter.

A March 2000 National Archives evaluation of "Records Management in the Central Intelligence Agency" provided some detailed insight into the subject.

At that time, NARA held that "CIA retention of permanent files for 50 years is no longer appropriate" and should be reduced to something closer to 30 years. But by default and inaction, 50 year retention of records by CIA has now become the goal that the agencies are striving for.


William J. Bosanko was formally named this week as the fourth director of the Information Security Oversight Offfice, the executive branch agency that is responsible for oversight of national security classification and declassification policy government-wide. A ten-year veteran of the ISOO staff, Mr. Bosanko shares an understanding of the ideals and the realities of classification as well as the scruple and the responsiveness that made his predecessors such remarkable public servants.

"When I am president, the era of Bush/Cheney secrecy will be over," said Sen. Hillary Clinton in a speech to the Newspaper Association of America on April 15. "I will empower the federal government to operate from a presumption of openness, not secrecy... I will direct my administration to prevent needless classification of information that ought to be shared with the public."

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) this week introduced a new bill to increase transparency in government agency expenditures, to provide online public tracking of legislative earmarks, and to require the IRS to provide taxpayers with statements of total taxes paid and projected. "This latest effort will provide taxpayers unprecedented information about how their money is spent, and how their taxes are paid. Increasing transparency in government spending is essential for accountability and fiscal responsibility."

The CIA today published for public comment a proposed rule modifying its Freedom of Information Act procedures. "The Agency proposes to revise its FOIA regulations to more clearly reflect the current CIA organizational structure, record system configuration, and FOIA policies and practices and to eliminate ambiguous, redundant and obsolete regulatory provisions."


Prodded by a request from the Federation of American Scientists, the U.S. Marine Corps recently restored online public access to many of its doctrinal publications, Federal Computer Week reported on March 27.

One of those Marine Corps documents addresses war crimes, describing prohibited actions and the need to prevent them.

"While we Marines fight swiftly and aggressively, we also conduct our military operations with respect toward both the liberated people and the vanquished foe."

"Marines do not harm enemy soldiers who surrender. Marines do not torture or kill enemy prisoners of war or detainees. Marines collect and care for the wounded, whether friend or foe."

See "War Crimes," Marine Corps Reference Publication 4-11.8B, 6 September 2005:

Another document is a 1990 analysis of weather patterns in the Persian Gulf.

"While some of the technical information in this manual is of use mainly to meteorologists, much of the information is invaluable to anyone who wishes to predict the consequences of changes in the season or weather on military operations."

See "The Persian Gulf Region: A Climatological Study," Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication 0-54, 19 October 1990:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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