Saturday, December 8, 2007

Your government at work: CIA "declassification" review results in more materials kept secret

Steven Aftergood has an essay in Secrecy News, published by the Federation of American Scientists on CIA bungling of declassification of secret documents. The essay has been republished on HNN. Aftergood writes, in part:
When the Central Intelligence Agency released several declassified histories of its clandestine services program this week, it seemed like a solid indication of progress towards opening up the historical record of U.S. intelligence (Secrecy News, 12/05/07).

But upon closer inspection of the newly released documents, the opposite appears to be closer to the truth. It turns out that CIA has engaged in pointless multiple reviews of the same document, and has even attempted to classify and to withhold information that had previously been declassified and disclosed.

Today, the Federation of American Scientists asked the Information Security Oversight Office to investigate the matter.

The 1961 "Record of Paramilitary Action Against the Castro Government of Cuba" that was posted on the CIA web site this week was first processed for declassification in 1997 in response to a request from Peter Kornbluh, the Cuba expert at the National Security Archive, and the lightly redacted document was posted on the Archive web site in 1998.
In 2007, the same document was again subjected to declassification review. It was re-scanned by CIA reviewers and this time the redactions were made by whiting out the text instead of blacking it out as had been done ten years ago. But appearances aside, a comparison of the two documents indicates that no new information was released since 1997.

In other words, despite the CIA's expenditure of scarce declassification resources to process the document twice, no value was added by doing so.

Even more problematic is the Agency's handling of the declassified history of "The Berlin Tunnel Operation, 1952-1956", because the CIA attempted to withhold portions of that report as classified even though they had previously been released.
The Berlin Tunnel history has been reviewed several times for declassification. The latest version that was released by the CIA this week was "approved for release" in July 2007. Another version of the same document was previously "approved for release" in February 2007 (Secrecy News, 04/05/07).
Astonishingly, much of the text that was released in February is marked as classified in the July version!
Continue reading here.

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