Scott Shane's "National Archives Says Records Were Wrongly Classified" in this morning's New York Times covers the follow up to the revelations of a secret program, begun in 1995 apparently increased in 2001, through which the CIA was allowed to go through the National Archives and pull documents released for public consumption and 'reclassify' them. Left out of the article (still) is the climate under which declassification had been fought (by Poppy Bush) and under which the public had won (the early days of the first Clinton administration). Also left out of the article is any evaluation of a review of the Air Force's actions (which were also done in secret) unless someone continues the following to be an evaluation:
An Air Force spokeswoman, First Lt. Christy A. Stravolo, said: "This audit was a good thing. In the long run, it will improve the consistency of declassification processes across the board."
I don't think many, after the Air Force and the National Archives, entered into a secret arrangement allowing the Air Force to pull (at will) any documents it wanted without informing the public, would see a spokesperson for that branch of the government giving "Sunshine Day" comments as an evaluation. Will come back to that (kind of, sort of) in a moment. But for now, let's focus on this paragraph:
The reclassification of documents began after some agencies found that their records had been improperly declassified in the mid-1990's in a process the audit admitted was "replete with errors." The review took place largely hidden from public view, and researchers found entire boxes of records missing from the shelves with only vague notations about "restricted status" as an explanation.
A branch of the military doesn't follow under "agencies." Is something more not being told or is the wording imprecise?
What is known is that the CIA rejected calls by the public for declassification and had for some time. The calls grew louder with the release of Oliver Stone's JFK (trashed by the Times) and former CIA head Poppy Bush refused to answer the public's call. The CIA didn't want declassification. Bill Clinton made this one of the issues, more access for the public to our records -- because government records are "our records" -- and quicker declassification during the 1992 campaign. (A campaign which, for all the reductionist attempts and false credit, was built upon more than "It's the economy, stupid.") Clinton, much to the disagreement of some, did follow through on the promise. Reclassification was a goal of the Bully Boy's and one he's been quite sucessful in because so few have bothered to cover it seriously. Instead, it's largely been considered 'cute' that he attempted to hide his own records (as governor of the state of Texas) in his father's presidential library (he lost that to a degree) or to turn the people's papers -- which is what they are -- in regards to papers from a presidency over to the families of president's. They aren't private papers. But there's been very little serious and prolonged coverage of this in the mainstream media. (Avoiding what, as I believe Robert Parry among others have noted, might mean taking a serious look at actions in the Iran-Contra era that the press downplayed in real time.)
The issue of evaluation (remember we were going to pick that strand back up). Shane's article rushes to conclusions (both in terms of the quick nature of the wrap up and in terms of offering a 'judgement') with this paragraph:
Reaction to the audit and the planned overhaul of declassification from the affected government agencies, as well as from historians who had complained about the reclassification, was generally positive.
Two different sources are noted to give the impression that the audit 'worked' (one is the spokesperson for the Air Force, the other is Matthew M. Aid's whose attempts at research led to the disclosures of the programs -- there were at least two, the CIA's and the Air Force's). So readers may be left with the impression that the audit can be given the snap judgement Shane's words and quotes imply. That's not incorrect.
From Martha's highlight, Christopher Lee's "Some Archives Files Wrongly Kept Secret" (Washington Post):
Aid praised Weinstein for ordering the audit but said lifting the moratorium before finalizing the new procedures was a mistake. "The decision to let these people go back and do the reclassification again makes no sense to me whatsoever," he said.
Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, said, "It's too early to say whether this will solve the problem, but it brings the matter out into the open where it belongs."
The topic itself acts as the perfect intro to two things. First, Bryan's highlight of John Nichols'
"Frank Church and the Abyss of Warrantless Wiretapping" (The Online Beat, The Nation):
Thirty years ago, on April 26, 1976, the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, delivered its final report detailing the lawlessness of U.S. intelligence agencies and the need for Congress to reassert the Constitutional system of checks and balances to order to rein in the cloak-and-dagger excesses of the executive branch of the federal government.
The committee, mercifully referred to by the last name of its chair, U.S. Senator Frank Church, D-Idaho, produced fourteen reports on the formation of U.S. intelligence agencies, the manner in which they had and were continuing to operate, and the abuses of law and of power -- up to and including murder -- committed by these agencies in Chile, the Congo, Cuba, Vietnam and other nations that experienced the attention of U.S. authorities in the Cold War era.
The committee also made 96 recommendations for how to do that. Some of those recommendations, such as the committee's call for creation of a permanent Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and for a ban on assassinations of foreign leaders, were implemented. But, as the current controversy over President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program illustrates, the potential abuses about which the Church Committee warned were not entirely -- nor even adequately -- thwarted.
It was not for lack of trying by Senator Church, one of the most courageous legislators in American history, and his colleagues on the committee. As Senator Church said when the committee completed its work: "The United States must not adopt the tactics of the enemy. Means are important, as ends. Crisis makes it tempting to ignore the wise restraints that make men free. But each time we do so, each time the means we use are wrong, our inner strength, the strength which makes us free, is lessened."
If you haven't already checked out the column, please do. I think most members will be glad to read Nichols' look at the Church Committee. Another highlight that fits in here is today's scheduled topic for Democracy Now!:
* John Dean & Daniel Ellsberg in studio together on Watergate, the Bush administration and presidential power.
And note that Democracy Now! has taken repeated looks at the Church Committee and at that period of government abuse.
The Un-embed the Media tour continues:
* Amy Goodman in Rome, Italy:
Sat, Apr 29 *
TIME: 5 PM
Lelio Basso Foundation
* Amy Goodman in Davis, CA:
Fri, May 5 *
TIME: 7 PM
A Conversation About Guantanamo
Freeborn Hall, University of California, Davis
For more information: http://humanrights.ucdavis.edu/
For Detailed Directions:
Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas
5211 Social Science and Humanities
University of California at Davis
Davis, CA 95616
Rachel notes a program noted yesterday actually airs today on WBAI today (time given is Eastern):
11:00 am-noon: Joy of Resistance
From Abortion Rights to Reproductive Justice: Loretta Ross (SisterSong) @ Hampshire College (Apr. 7); Monica Ramirez on sexual harassment of immigrant women workers; Maretta Short (Women of Color & Allies) debuts regular JOR segment w/expose of welfare-to-work programs & "why I became a feminist"; worldwide feminist news includes: US Azerbaijani Embassy connections to sex traffickers.
Rachel takes the fall in her e-mail, but I'm sure it was my mistake. My apologies. Joy of Resistance today at eleven (Eastern time).
Zach notes these two programs on KPFA today (times given are Pacific):
Special Broadcast: Bipartisan Congressional Forum on How to Bring the Troops Home from Iraq
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), Maurice Hinchey (D-New York), and Maxine Waters will be co-chairing a second forum on ending U.S. military operations in Iraq and bringing U.S. troops home, while helping the Iraqis regain control over their country and their future.
What: Bipartisan Congressional Forum on How to Bring the Troops Home from Iraq
Thursday, April 27, 2006 9:00 AM - 11:00 A.M.
2325 Rayburn House Office Building
Hosted by U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, Maurice Hinchey, and Maxine Waters, plus other Members of Congress
Witnesses to include:
Dr. Paul Pillar, Former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000-2005 and long career in the CIA, faculty member of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University, and author of Foreign Affairs feature article in March/April issue entitled "Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq"
U.S. Congressional sponsors of pending legislation specifying plans and timelines for concluding U.S. military operations in Iraq and bringing home U.S. troops (U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern and Barbara Lee)
Ms. Faiza al-Arji. She is a native Shia Iraqi, married to a Sunni Iraqi. They have three sons who currently live in Amman, Jordan. She will speak about her family's experiences in Iraq before and during the war and subsequent occupation.
Dr. Dahlia Wasfi. She was born to a Jewish mother and an Iraqi father. She recently put her medical career on hold to visit with family members in Iraq, and recently returned from a three-month stay in Basra and Baghdad. She will describe her experiences in Iraq and discuss the life of Iraqis under occupation.
Charlie Anderson (Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class, U.S. Navy-Ret.) He served with the Marine Crops' Second Tank Battalion during the invasion of Iraq. He is now the Southeast Regional Coordinator of Iraq Veterans Against the War and willdiscuss his experiences in the military during the war in Iraq.
Cover to Cover with Richard Wolinsky
Alan Hollinghurst, Booker Prize winner for the novel "The Line of Beauty" is interviewed by Richard Wolinsky.
You can listen to all three over the airwaves or online (online free of charge). The Iraq Forum will be carried by other Pacifica stations (if your station of choice broadcasts it, listen via that) and at the Pacifica website. The e-mail address for this site is email@example.com.
the new york times
the washington post
joy of resistance