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Secret Understanding Between National Archives
and CIA Exposes Framework for Surreptitious Reclassification Program

U.S. Archivist Promises No More Secret Agreements

For more information contact:
William Burr/Meredith Fuchs
202/994-7000

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February 27, 2006

Washington D.C., 19 April 2006 - Monday, Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein released a declassified Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Central Intelligence Agency, signed in October 2001, and a background paper that shed more light on the recently exposed reclassification of open files at the National Archives and Records Administration. After the secret MOU came to Weinstein's attention last Thursday, he sought its immediate declassification. In his announcement, Weinstein declared that there would be no more secret agreements such as the MOUs with the CIA and Air Force (disclosed the week before last): "There can never be a classified aspect to our mission. Classified agreements are the antithesis of our reason for being."

The National Security Archive applauds Mr. Weinstein's statement and his decision, in what may have been record time, to reach a speedy agreement with the CIA to declassify the MOU. This action demonstrates Mr. Weinstein's commitment to resolve one of the most controversial episodes in NARA's twenty-year history as an independent agency.

NARA's Interagency Security Oversight Office (ISOO) is completing its preliminary audit of the formerly open archival documents that CIA, Air Force and other agencies began reclassifying in the late 1990s, and is scheduled to release the report on Wednesday April 26. The audit was prompted by National Security Archive visiting fellow Matthew Aid's exposure in February of the surreptitious reclassification program, which also led Mr. Weinstein to impose a moratorium on this activity.

The ISOO audit involves a careful review of declassification standards for the review of historical documents; it may also unveil new standards to expedite declassification. Archive Senior Analyst Dr. William Burr commented, "Success in convincing intelligence and military agencies to accept reasonable declassification and reclassification standards for historical documents would be an extraordinary accomplishment. Recent developments highlight the need for a National Declassification Initiative that facilitates the opening of the backlog of classified historical agency records, especially those of the Defense Department."

Mr. Weinstein has asked the recently constituted Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) to independently assess the reclassification controversy. The PIDB reportedly will hold open hearings on the reclassification activities on May 9, 2006.

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