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What Should Be Our #1 Priority?

by on June 8, 2010


I hope that you have had an opportunity to look at the Draft Prioritization Plan for processing the backlog of accessioned Federal records and referrals in Presidential materials.  If not, I invite you to review the Plan here:  http://www.archives.gov/declassification/prioritization-plan.pdf

Looking at the chart which begins at the bottom of page 3 and continues on page 4, please review the records listed that we propose to process first.  Federal records are listed on the left side of the chart and Presidential materials on the right.  Let us know which records from this list should be our highest priority, or if you would like to see records or collections, not on this list, be added.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Comments

Erik Larson June 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Dear NARA NDC,

I am glad to see that NARA is clearing its backlog of classified records. This NDC draft list of subjects for prioritization contains a great deal that may be of significant interest to the public (see short list below). I agree with NARA’s position on prioritizing the processing of records that more people have expressed an interest in seeing, compared with records in which few people have expressed an interest in. However, I hope that NARA also defines “public interest” according to the perspective that it is in the interest of the public that government records be open- except in cases where there is a clear, objective and accountable determination that it is in the public interest that certain records (or certain information in records) remain classified, and that this outweighs the public interest in disclosure. In this sense, it is in the public interest to devote significant resources to this project, and finish it as soon as humanly possible. How do the resources NARA has devoted to publicizing this project compare with the resources devoted to publicizing other NARA activities of interest to the public, such as the genealogy project?

I also hope that NARA will add the records of the 9/11 Commission to the list of priorities. I understand that NARA is processing the remaining 65% of unprocessed 9/11 Commission records only upon researcher request for specific records, due to the large backlog of other records that are 25+ years old. Certainly, this backlog needs to be processed asap, but there is a unique and important opportunity with the 9/11 Commission records. The events of 9/11 radically reshaped the government and society of the U.S., and continue to do so. The events are not so far in the past that they’re ‘history’, and a variety of public opinion polls have revealed that a third to more than half of Americans are not satisfied with the account presented by the 9/11 Commission Report. Making the underlying records public would be a great aid in settling some of the questions that remain, and postponing it feeds the perception that important facts may be hidden.

This collection has gotten an average of 1600 hits per day over the last three months, and has gotten over 750,000 hits since it was launched in March, 2009. This has happened without any attention from mainstream media; certain documents have attracted a significant amount of attention from independent online media. This is evidence that there are many members of the public interested in these records. However, the records that may be of the greatest interest to the public are those that are still classified- or even unclassified, but as yet unprocessed.

Regardless of the 9/11 Commission records, is it possible to provide more information on the contents of the records in the NDC draft list? Without more information, all I can say is that I have a particular interest in the following (please see comments appended in parentheses):

RG Title Entries Volume
263 Central Intelligence Agency 23 178
272 Kennedy Assassination Commission 1 1 (High public interest, as well as of great interest to the public)
273 National Security Counsel 37 334 (Should this be “Council”?)
59 State Department 1273 9434
60 Department of Justice 1930 7044
65 Federal Bureau of Investigation 104 2073
218 Joint Chiefs of Staff 179 3918
266 Securities and Exchange Commission 1 31
285 Commerce Records Relating to International Commercial Operations (see RG 489) 6 145
286 U.S. Agency for International Development 945 7937
326 Atomic Energy Commission 88 1322
330 Office of the Secretary of Defense 1299 7222
373 Defense Intelligence Agency 119 662
518 U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) 128 430
87 Secret Service 5 30
311 Records of the FEMA 2 9
396 Office of Emergency Preparedness 6 14
412 Records of the Environmental Protection Agency 1 9
420 Records of the Overseas Private Investment Corp. 7 56
509 Department of Defense Inspector General 6 29
371 Defense Information Systems Agency 209 702
374 Defense Nuclear Agency/ Defense Threat Reduction Agency 157 1225
411 General Accounting Office 2 1
456 Defense Mapping Agency 166 814

Sincerely,

Erik Larson

Don June 18, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Erik,

Thanks for your comments. The 9-11 Commission records are in the custody of our Center for Legislative Records as it was a Legislative Branch directed commission. I have put in a request with a colleague there for an update on processing. I’ll let you know what I hear. Regarding prioritization using records groups, I agree that it is a high level, but we wanted to start somewhere. As we get more specific (for example regional bureaus within the Department of State, or specific military commands) we will share that as well. In general, the types of records in each record group will be similar to what we have already accessioned. The online NARA Guide can give you an overview of what each record group contains. http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/
We will also be posting updates as series of records are declassified and available. Finally,
you asked what resources we are devoting to publicizing the work of the NDC. We are using current staff to draft the various forms of communication and have had excellent support from NARA’s press/web and social media teams in helping us launch venues such as this.

Don

P.S. Thanks for the catch on RG 273, it should be Council.

Sally June 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I would like to see all JFK Assassination information declassified immediately.

cyrana July 15, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Atomic Energy Commission. I think this would be very useful to scholars of American history.

Matej November 5, 2010 at 5:57 pm

As an aerospace journalist and analyst, I would like to see that kind of documents:

255 National Aeronautics and Space Admin.
340 Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
341 HQ U.S. Air Force (Air Staff)
342 U.S. Air Force Commands, Activities, and Organizations

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