Today’s post comes from NDC Director Sheryl Shenberger and provides a summary of the NDC forum held on April 10, 2015.
Last Friday, April 10, Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, kicked off another successful NDC Public Forum, NDC Prioritization: What Secrets Do People Want to See? NDC had selected the subject of “prioritization” as it could relate to declassification, because the sheer number of records requiring declassification processing suggests to us that new approaches must be considered if we are to provide the history of the US government in a timely manner. NDC received a number of useful and practical suggestions during the two hours; I have captured a few high points below.
To set a baseline, I provided the NDC’s current five prioritized processes: 1) processing classified series for quality assurance within one year of their accessioning to the National Archives. Working with agencies in the future on a quality assurance approach to series not yet physically located at College Park. 2) Ramped up review of previously reviewed and exempted records in conjunction with an automated equity referral notification and tracking system. 3) Processing those records withdrawn before NARA established a computerized data capture system in 2002. 4) “Indexing on demand” for researchers to request series to go to the head of the final data entry and document segregation queue. 5) Special themed declassification projects when practical.
Senior Archivist David Langbart provided authoritative insight into both the practical applicability of and philosophical concerns with topic-based prioritization, and Supervisory Archivist Martha Murphy offered the audience a view into the method being used to complete the last of the JFK records.
Our VIP Panel then offered their unique views and suggestions on prioritization, its value and where it might be best applied. David Robarge from CIA gave his historian’s take on where CIA might go: focus on post–Cold War National Intelligence Estimates, President’s Daily Briefs (and their predecessor documents), the organization of the agency, and the declassification of certain covert action activities. Stephen Randolph from the Department of State acknowledged the multiple demands on declassification reviewers and the problems associated with thematic review. He offered the concept of an advisory committee that could prioritize NDC records, in the way of State Department’s successful Historical Advisory Committee. OpenTheGovernment.org’s Katherine Hawkins noted the logistics concerns and document-level pass/fail method of a high-volume operation like the NDC, lamented the release rate, and suggested that a clear definition for what constitutes “sources and methods” could expand the declassification of some series. Bill Burr and Nate Jones from the National Security Archive offered a number of specific record series NDC might focus on, such as presidential records, Secretary of Defense and of State files, and Director-level series from the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), and the Intelligence Community. Like Katherine, they lamented the release rate, and Bill called out Defense for being overly restrictive. Nate noted that document-level review is “not doing the job,” and advocated for a redaction review that might lead to fewer re-reviews by doing this careful declassification review to start with. Representing the view of the Public Interest Declassification Board and its recent publication, “Setting Priorities: An Essential Step in Transforming Declassification,” Bill Leary agreed with fellow panel members that the current system of declassification is unsustainable especially in the light of electronic records. He suggested a focus on the more important records rather than the oldest and noted that the application of document-level pass/fail creates a bigger backlog down the road. He placed presidential records and previously exempted series at the head of a prioritization queue, and suggested the NDC identify record series that don’t warrant a review unless requested, identify those that could be declassified automatically, and then focus resources on the most requested records.
Questions and comments from the forum audience included advocacy for expedited review of the final JFK records, the prioritization of top-level records for redaction processing, and looking to NARA researcher requests for clues to prioritization.
The forum was recorded and is available for viewing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABsaEa9v4ik
Future blog posts will inform you on NDC progress with forum suggestions, comments, and concerns.
Washington, DC…The National Archives National Declassification Center (NDC) will host its next public forum on Friday, April 10, from 10 AM to noon, in the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. This event is free and open to the public. Please enter via the Special Events entrance on Constitution Ave. and 7th St., NW. See directions.
The theme for this year’s forum is NDC Prioritization: What Secrets Do People Want to See? Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero will provide opening remarks. NDC Director Sheryl Shenberger will update the public on NDC prioritization practices and ongoing declassification progress.
NDC and National Archives staff, outside experts, and the public will address and discuss this year’s theme: NDC Prioritization: What Secrets Do People Want to See?The forum will conclude with a question and answer session with members of the public, moderated by NDC Supervisor Don McIlwain.
Session highlights include:
- An overview of the role of provenance in archival holdings processing and arrangement, by Rick Peuser, Supervisory Archivist.
- “Approaches to Prioritization” panel discussion with experts: David Robarge, chief historian, CIA; Stephen Randolph, Historian, Department of State; Katherine Hawkins, National Security Fellow, OpenTheGovernment.org; Nate Jones, FOIA Coordinator, National Security Archive; William Burr, Senior Analyst, National Security Archive; and Bill Leary, Public Member, Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB).
For additional information or to submit questions in advance question, contact Don McIlwain at firstname.lastname@example.org or (301) 837-0587.
The National Declassification Center, locatedat the National Archives at College Park, was established under Executive Order 13526 by Archivist David S. Ferriero on December 30, 2009. The NDC’s mission is to align people, processes, and technologies to advance the declassification and public release of historically valuable permanent records while maintaining national security. For more information see the National Declassification Center’s website at www.archives.gov/declassification.
Today’s “Sunshine Week” post comes from NDC Director Sheryl Shenberger and is an update on prioritized NDC projects and final processing.
In my previous blog posts I offered a new option for prioritizing records that lack final processing: the opportunity for interested researchers to choose which series from a selected list should go the head of our queue. Now I am offering you something new: a more inclusive listing of projects available for indexing. Below is a chart of the many series available for final processing, some are small, some contain many boxes. Some will require much segregation of still-sensitive information before they can be provided; others will indeed be a quick turn around. The spreadsheet contains all of the backlog entries that are in our Indexing queue and includes: the acronym or name and number of the original record group; NARA Holdings Managewment System (HMS) identification numbers; the record entry name for the series; dates of the records within the series (not always immediately available); and the size (possibly estimated) of the series itself.
Master Backlog Index Queue List Feb 2015
As before, you can correspond with us via our email@example.com email box or by replying to this blog post. We can then offer you an estimate on the complexity of the final processing needed as well as a tentative timeline to completion.
We are still working the selected series I offered previously, and the following is a status report (in red):
- REID 292485, RG 341 (U.S. Air Force), Entry UD 1001, “Assistant Chief Of Staff, Intelligence, Intelligence Report Files” – 1600 boxes (1.4M pages) Indexing started 6/15/2014 – 100% complete, included on Release List dated 15 September 2014, publically available.
- REID108618, RG 255 (NASA), Entry A1 93-D, “Classified Numerical Files of Documents [NACA: Numerical File of Documents from the NACA Library, 1916-1962]” – 2,510 boxes (2.1M pages) Indexing started 7/18/2014 – 100% complete, included on Release List dated 15 September 2014, publically available.
- REID 337873, RG 319 (Army Staff), Entry UD-WX 92, “Department Of The Army CMH Boxes Re Vietnam” – 190 boxes (450K pages) Indexing started 9/08/2014 – 100% complete and queued up for the next Release List.
- REID 374812, RG 338, (U.S. Army Operational, Tactical, and Support Org. (WW II and Thereafter), Entry UD-UP 77, “Classified Records of U.S. Army Commands Transferred from the National Personnel Records Center, St. Louis, MO” – 479 boxes (1.2M pages) Indexing started 10/06/2014 – 56% complete.
- REID 163442, RG 72 (Bureau of Aeronautics), Entry UD 1047, “Technical Information Library Collection” – 8,038 boxes (6.7M pages) Indexing started 8/28/2014 – 52% complete.
- REID 156444, RG 74 (Bureau of Ordinance), Entry A1 1021-A, “Scientific and Technical Reports” – 1,661 boxes (4.1M pages)
- REID 341575, RG 402 (Bureau of Naval Weapons), Entry UD-UP 19, “Confidential and Unclassified Subject Files, 1960” – 231 boxes (577K pages)
- REID 346288, RG 402, (Bureau of Naval Weapons), Entry UD-WX 1728, “Technical Reports” – 222 boxes (555K pages)
- REID 319094, RG 343 (Naval Air Systems Command), Entry UD-WW 198, “Air 604 TECH Reports 69; Acc. # 69-A-4901” – 220 boxes (550K pages)
- REID 132240, RG 38 (Office of the Chief of Naval Operations), Entry A1 1009, “Office Of Naval Intelligence; Publications File” – 486 boxes (405K pages)
- REID 384848, RG 38 (Office of the Chief of Naval Operations), Entry UD-UP 14, “Archives Branch Hist Record, 1971” – 150 boxes (375K pages)
- REID 319134, RG 343 (Naval Air Systems Command), Entry UD-WW 211, “Correspondence Relating to the Message Section [Air 60324 PRIM PROGM Records 67-69; Acc. # 70-A-1635]” – 111 boxes (278K pages)
- REID 157274, RG 19 (Bureau of Ships), Entry UD 1017-AR, “Secret General Correspondence, 1962” – 270 boxes (224K pages)
- REID 149085, RG 72 (Bureau of Aeronautics), Entry UD 1005-E, “Enclosures to Secret Correspondence Files” – 286 boxes (237K pages)
- REID 157340, RG 19 (Bureau of Ships), Entry UD 1017-AU, “Secret General Correspondence, 1965” – 288 boxes (238K pages)
- REID 13489, RG 38 (Office of the Chief of Naval Operations), Entry A1 1003, “ONI; Administrative Branch; Administrative Correspondence; 1948-1956” – 238 boxes (197K pages)
Today’s post comes from National Declassification Center Archives Specialist Stephanie Coon.
In today’s digital world, we receive emails that make us wonder how we ended up on a mailing list for such a group or product. The same goes for snail mail, when advertisements for candy companies or random catalogs appear in your mailbox. In the 1940s and 1950s, being on the mailing list for an “undesirable group” could mean an investigation into your loyalty, and for federal employees, the end of your career.
In 1947, President Truman issued Executive Order (E.O.) 9835, which established the first loyalty program in the United States, designed to root out communist influence in the federal government. The E.O. created the Employee Loyalty Board to conduct name checks of federal employees, and authorized further investigations upon discovery of derogatory information. Agents applied additional scrutiny if there were indications of espionage, treason, disclosure of confidential information, advocacy of violent overthrow of the U.S. government or membership in a subversive organization.
The executive order created the Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations (AGLOSO). Appearing on the mailing list for one of these groups led to an investigation into the loyalties of federal employees. In 1941, Federal Register and National Archives employee, Melvin Pollack, found himself as a subject of investigation because his name appeared on the mailing lists of the American Peace Mobilization, the Washington Committee for Democratic Action and the American League for Peace and Democracy.
In spite of the risks, Pollack willingly appeared before the FBI to answer questions regarding his loyalties. He admitted to being a member of the American League for Peace and Democracy, which he joined because of their boycott of Japanese goods in support of the Chinese people. Pollack’s statement said that he never participated in any activities but joined for social rather than political reasons.
The investigation did not find further derogatory information. In a move that was rare for these cases, Pollack’s boss, Archivist of the United States Solon J. Buck, sent a letter to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover defending Pollack, and thus ended the inquiry.
Over the course of the ten years, over two million federal employees underwent initial investigations because of the name checks. According to Wikipedia, officials dismissed 378 employees for spying, and another 5000 federal employees voluntarily resigned.
This case file is located in the Federal Bureau of Investigation Classification 101 – Headquarters Case Files and Index (UD-UP 31), Folder 101-1720. This entry was declassified under NND 58337.
The NDC has released a listing of 62 entries that have completed declassification processing between December 1, 2014 and February 6, 2015 and are now available for researcher request. This release consists of records from both military and civilian agencies.
- Department of the Treasury, Briefing Books Prepared for Secretary W. Michael Blumenthal,
- Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File: “N” (NODIS) Reels, 1975,
- Department of State, Top Secret Central Foreign Policy Files (Telegrams) 1975,
- Department of State, Human Rights Country Files,
- Office of the Secretary of Defense, Records Relating to Civil Rights,
- Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Status of Forces History File, 1967-1968, and
- United States Army, Center for Military History Boxes Re: Vietnam
Requests to access the newly released records or to order copies should be directed to Archives 2 Reference at 301-837-3510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(When making a request, please cite the HMS Entry and Series Title.)