Monday, September 1, 2014

A follow up on the erroneous story that declassified records are being reclassified.

Some folks on a Facebook group, JFK: Uncensored, started a discussion that records that have been declassified were being secretly taken back by the CIA and they reclassified them as classified.  This was also a topic of discussion by Doug Campbell on his podcast "The Dallas Action." Part 21 August 31, 2014.

Deb Galentine, the creator or an administrator of the Facebook group, JFK Uncensored, read three articles on the National Security Archive website and conflated a Bush-Cheney era attempt to reclassify, i.e., "hide" some records that just happen to cover a period when Cheney was Secretary of Defense and a time when Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense together with the withdrawal forms present in the very first JFK records Act release from Aug of 1993 and thought that "they," whoever you want they to be, are currently taking away JFK assassination documents and reclassifying them.  No.  No, no, no, no, no. This is not true, not correct, not happening.

I need to stress right away that the National Security Archive is not, is not, a federal intelligence agency. They are a private group associated with George Washington University in Washington, D.C. They are the good NSA.  The other NSA is the National Security Agency.  They are the folks who spy on everybody.

One article Galentine read was titled, "Declassification in Reverse: The Pentagon and the U.S. Intelligence Community's Secret Historical Document Reclassification Program."  It was written by Matthew M. Aid.  It was written, or I guess I should say published, on the ( good ) NSA website on February 21, 2006.

So, it's 8 years old. Who was President of the United States in 2006? George W. Bush.  Bush, and his Vice President, Dick Cheney, did not like President Bill Clinton's Executive Order 12958 which was an effort to declassify all classified records that were held as classified and were 25 years old or older in 1995, so, that by the year 1999 they would all be released.

This Act was seen as being very helpful by the ARRB.  But, I vividly recall attending an open meeting of the ARRB in their offices and we were all shocked and surprised to learn from an article in The Washington Post that the FBI somehow got a waiver and the order would not apply to them.

So, when Bush and Cheney came in they were receptive to the intelligence community's complaints that some of their material, though declassified and sitting on shelves for years, copied by the general public, and even published in books, including the State Department's Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, were, they claim "inadvertently" declassified under President Clinton's Executive Order 12958. Additionally, there was a cultural shift favoring secrecy after the attacks on September 11, 2001.  So, Bush amends E.O. 12958 on March 25, 2003 with E. O. 13292.

So, there was this effort to reclassify CIA records in particular that were "inadvertently" declassified in State Department records.  This effort was driven by an ideology and undermined the legal authority of the FRUS which not only records and publishes volumes on U.S. diplomatic history but is itself a declassifying authority. So, the IDIOT Bush zombies decided to withdraw the original document, regardless of the fact that ANYONE could see and read the exact same information published in a FRUS volume. You simply cannot unpublish a FRUS volume.

So, the gang at JFK: Uncensored are about 8 years late to the party on this and not up-to-date on what has happened since.  This is a problem of reading information on a website today without knowing the true chronological order of what happened when.  It's easy to see all these websites and it is hard to follow the course of events if you're just going from site to site from a Google search.

Okay, next President Barak Obama comes in.  He orders a review of Clinton's E.O. 12958 on May 27, 2009.  Obama issues Executive Order 13526.  Section 3.7 creates the National Declassification Center (NDC).  The NDC wants to release this enormous backlog of documents awaiting declassification.

I got folks to attend an open meeting of the National Declassification Center to try to get JFK records released.

In Jefferson Morley's quest to get CIA records pertaining to George Joannides he got an official to state that there are about 1,100 CIA documents still being withheld.  This became something called "The Dorn Declaration."  I forget the exact origins of this but I have a screen grab image that I'll reproduce.

IV. Search of Records Released to NARA

    40. The Dorn Declaration describes the JFK Act and the Assassination Records Review Board ("ARRB") created thereunder. See Exhibit A ?? 26-30.  With the exception of approximately 1,100 documents withheld in their entirety until 2017, all of the CIA's JFK related documents were released in full or in part to NARA.

So, that's "The Dorn Declaration."  And it's pure bullshit.  It's bullshit in the statement that only about 1,100 documents are held back in their entirety. It's also bullshit that all of the CIA's JFK assassination related documents were released..  Jefferson Morley is seeking CIA documents that the ARRB did not know about, and that the CIA did not come forward with under the JFK Act. These documents fall outside the parameters set by the ARRB and the JFK Act.

So, that brings me, or us, to the present.  I have all of the information from the ARRB as published in The Federal Register up to April, 1998 and the document by document information only published as a summary in the Federal Register after April 1998.  The ARRB had to pay out of their own budget what they were required by law to publish in The Federal Register.  They had to list their decisions on a document by document basis.  They could not afford to do this anymore by April of 1998 as the list of numbers now were exceeding 70 to 80 pages and more. Also, they were going out of business by the end of September 1998.  So, they produced summaries of their decisions. The listing of their decisions on a document by document basis could only be obtained directly from the ARRB at the time or in their files at Archives II.  I finally obtained all of this this year.

The project I'm working on now is to cull from all of this data the documents marked as Postponed in Full, or Postponed in Part, until 2017.  I will give a presentation on this at the ARRC conference this month.  There is an assumption in the JFK research community that there are only 1,100 documents still being withheld, and those are all CIA and we got everything from everybody else.  Boy, is that wrong.

So, going back to Doug's podcast, he reads parts of the Matthew Aid article.  Unfortunately, Mr. Aid uses sensationalistic language in his article. Mr. Aid's use of the word raid, actually "raiding," makes it sound like people broke into the libraries and confiscated whatever they wanted.  It's just a stupid hook to keep you reading his article.  One subsection is entitled "Raiding the Presidential Libraries."  And the two libraries mentioned are the Kennedy and Johnson libraries.  However, the language of this paragraph make it clear that no raid actually took place.  People from the Dept. of Energy, and the Air Force went to the JFK and LBJ libraries and reviewed open State Department documents but they found nothing to concern them.  So, nothing was taken and reclassified from either presidential library according to Nancy Smith.

"Nancy Smith, of [NARA's Office of Presidential Libraries, noted that DOE and AF [Air Force] reviewers were going to presidential libraries to review information from the open stacks for quality control. Smith said that a problem has arisen occasionally when the Presidential Libraries have documents that were previously published in Foreign Relations and the same document may no longer be able to remain declassified. NARA cites FRUS as a declassification authority, if the DOE or AF reviewers have a concern. So far the Kennedy and Johnson libraries have not alerted Smith to any problems."  ( emphasis added by me)

Mr. Aid is also a poor writer.  Look at this non-sentence, "The results of the multi-agency reclassification effort since it began have dramatic and disturbing."  That should say "have been," the verb is missing. 

Most of the records reclassified are from the State Dept. and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Hmm, what previous office did Dick Cheney have in a presidential administration? He was the Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush.  And what position did Donald Rumsfeld have in a previous presidential administration? He was Secretary of Defense under President Ford. 

But, that doesn't really mean anything, right? It's just coincidence.  

You see, you have to go back to this time, 2003, or earlier, and read from that time forward newspapers, and magazines, and editorials, to know more about this, how it was received, who was opposing it, what some thought the real reason why this was going on. Bush and Cheney had total contempt for any law, or any previous understanding of the nation's checks and balances. There was this ultra-right wing idea of the unitary executive theory. One can get a flavor of the time with this article in The Daily Kos on what Cheney thought the Vice Presidency really is.  And the New York Times reported on this new Cheney interpretation of what the Vice President's office is.  

Do you remember Attorney General Gonzales? He had to speak before a congressional committee and a senate committee and he arrogantly recited his opening statement what he said, word for word. Keith Olbermann on his MSNBC show Countdown had the two videos of Gonzales' opening statement side by side.  That's how much contempt they had for congress.  Gonzales couldn't even bother to write, or to have someone write for him a different opening statement. 

You also saw some of this total contempt toward the idea that anyone could tell anyone in the Bush administration that they have to comply with the law, or abide by any congressional oversight.

We saw this with the 9/11 Commission hearings when Condoleeza Rice thought her high position in the Bush administration exempted her from appearing before or complying with anything the 9/1 commission wanted from her.  They sent a Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage.  And if the committee didn't like it, well F the committee.  I could go on and on and on about the Bush-Cheney years. 

So, back to the main subject here, the idea that "they raided" presidential libraries is not accurate at all.

Doug states that they are going through the JFK and LBJ libraries and are reclassifying declassified material. NO! THEY ARE NOT DOING THAT.  This article was published in 2006.  It's about a Bush-Cheney thing.  This is not a current thing, and even under this Bush-Cheney stupidity nothing happened at the JFK or LBJ library.  This did not happen and is not happening now nor is it going to happen in the near or far future.  Doug did not properly read and understand what he was reading.

Doug Campbell reads parts of the article, often not reading the whole sentence, and gives the listener incorrect information, sometimes the exact opposite of what the article actually says.  He says, "They raided the Kennedy and Johnson libraries.  Did you hear that?" NO.  Because that's not what the article actually says.

The documents Doug reads from are mentioned in Aid's article. Document 7, and Document 13 have links that show the Bush-Cheney era of stupidity.  If you wanted to go to the specific document directly you would see a Withdrawal form.  However,  Mr.Aid then shows you that the document Bush and Cheney didn't want you to see has already been published by the FRUS.  So, you will see the withdrawal form and then the page from the FRUS.

This rescreening of declassified documents in an attempt to reclassify them was to continue until 2007.  So, it's not happening now. It was under Bush and Cheney. But, not now.

The second article by Aid, published on May 21, 2014 "CIA successfully conceals Bay of Pigs history." talks about how the B-5 exemption of the Freedom of Information Act under which the CIA was able to continue to hide Volume 5 of a 5 volume study by the CIA of the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion.

There is a website from NARA that will tell you all about FOIA.  The good NSA has a page on FOIA.

There are a number of exemptions to FOIA and these exemptions are overused. There are current attempts to strengthen FOIA and I encourage folks to look into that.

Then Doug reads an article written by Peter Kornbluh "History Held Hostage."

Warning, we are now off the NSA website.  There is a page on the NSA website with the title "History Held Hostage," that is about the CIA's refusal to release records on Chile.  Doug should have prefaced the "History Held Hostage," by saying the following is not on the NSA website, but is written by Peter Kornbluh

What Doug reads is "History Held Hostage" on The Daily Beast's website about the CIA's refusal to release Volume 5 of the Bay of Pigs report.

I hope I've cleared some things up here.  Studying our government's classification and declassification  systems is a good thing to do.  But, you must get the chronology right.  If you see something on the internet about this topic look at the date it was written, then look for newspaper, magazine, even blog posts about the specific item and the specific date to get the correct historical context.

I highly recommend visiting the NSA website.  Bookmark it and view it, at least once a week.  And subscribe to their Secrecy News email.  You'll learn a lot about the constant battle to get documents declassified.

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