Thursday, April 21, 2011

NSAM-29 Declassified.

National Security Archive Update, April 21, 2011


Deconstructing a Secrecy Blunder:
A Study in Dysfunction

For more information contact:
John Prados - 202/994-7000

Washington, D.C., April 21, 2011 - The last remaining secret national
security directive from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, a National
Security Action Memorandum on Laos, has finally been declassified, nearly
fifty years after it was first issued, and was posted today on the Web site
of the National Security Archive.

Today's posting is a case study of sorts--a selection of documents which are
analyzed not so much for their historical value as for what the materials
show about operation of the declassification system. This inquiry has its
origins in a quest by Archive senior fellow Jeffrey T. Richelson to obtain
the declassification of presidential national security directives issued
since President Harry S. Truman. During the Kennedy and Johnson
administrations, the highest level directives that flowed from the White
House were called National Security Action Memoranda (NSAMs). President John
F. Kennedy issued 173 NSAMs during his time in office. Reaching the point
where only NSAM-29, on Laos, dated March 9, 1961, remained secret, Richelson
finally obtained the declassification of this directive on October 29, 2010,
almost fifty years after it was issued.

As the "last NSAM standing," NSAM 29 received significant attention inside
the National Security Archive. But to the present author, the Archive's
project director on Vietnam war records, it immediately seemed familiar. A
search for related records produced a number of other items (also posted
today) which provide the context for discussion of NSAM-29's release. More
importantly, however, the search disclosed that the document, far from being
the last NSAM standing, was already in the public domain, in multiple
versions, some more than a decade old. Given present controversies over
secrecy in America, the case of the last NSAM illuminates the enormous
problems that are endemic in the declassification system.

Continue reading at the National Security Archive's Web site:

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