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Thousands of public records wrongly reclassified: National Archives audit

[JURIST] Over one-third of documents held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) [official website] that have been removed from public access since 1999 should not have been reclassified, according to an audit [text and supporting materials] conducted by NARA's Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) [official website]. ISOO head J. William Leonard and National Archivist Allen Weinstein said that over 25,000 records have been withdrawn [press release; prepared remarks] since 1999, and that their removal may have "exacerbated any possible damage to national security" by calling attention to the records' sensitivity. The US Air Force withdrew 17,702 records, the most of any government agency, but Weinstein and Leonard noted that more than one billion pages of government documents have been declassified [NARA materials] in the past ten years. NARA, along with several agencies that have reclassified records, is launching a pilot National Declassification Initiative in order to reduce the backlog of records waiting to be declassified by setting standards for determining whether documents should be made public.

Earlier this month, NARA made public a 2002 memorandum of understanding [PDF text; JURIST report] it reached with three federal agencies - the Air Force, CIA and an unnamed agency - to reclassify thousands of previously-public intelligence documents. Thursday's New York Times has more.

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