U.S. Reclassifies Many Documents in Secret Review
By Scott Shane
Sun Feb 21, 2006
The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the Central Intelligence Agency and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton. It accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to archives records.
... an intelligence historian, Matthew M. Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves.
After Mr. Aid and other historians complained, the archives' Information Security Oversight Office, which oversees government classification, began an audit of the reclassification program, said J. William Leonard, director of the office.
Mr. Leonard said he ordered the audit after reviewing 16 withdrawn documents and concluding that none should be secret.
"It doesn't make sense to create a category of documents that are classified but that everyone already has," said Meredith Fuchs, general counsel of the National Security Archive
, a research group at George Washington University. "These documents were on open shelves for years."
National Archives officials said the program had revoked access to 9,500 documents, more than 8,000 of them since President Bush took office.
Anna K. Nelson, a foreign policy historian at American University, said she and other researchers had been puzzled in recent years by the number of documents pulled from the archives with little explanation.
"I think this is a travesty," said Dr. Nelson, who said she believed that some reclassified material was in her files. "I think the public is being deprived of what history is really about: facts."
Mr. Leonard said he believed that while that logic might seem strained, the agencies were technically correct. But he said the complaints about the secret program, which prompted his decision to conduct an audit, showed that the government's system for deciding what should be secret is deeply flawed.