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Putting the toothpaste back in the tube

Secret agents at the National Archive are busy reclassifying history.
 
 
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George Washington University's National Security Archive recently discovered a covert program that has been hiding the CIA, Air Force's (and a redacted third authority -- likely the NSA) reclassification of public documents. Archive staff members had observed that some documents that were 50 years old had been reclassified. Through a FOIA request for one such reclassified document, a March 2002 "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOA) was obtained by the Archive staff.

The document, signed by an Air Force official and an archivist at the D.C. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) outlines a program through which some "55,000 pages of declassified documents, dating back to the World War II era have been removed from the open files."

The MOA also states that

it is in the interest of both [redacted] and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to avoid the attention and researcher complaints that may arise from removing material that has already been available publicly from the open shelves for extended periods of time…

Researcher requests for withheld documents shall be accepted for processing by NARA and shall not be directed to [redacted] AFDO, or CIA for response. It may be necessary to supplement AFDO with [redacted] personnel. NARA will not disclose the true reason for the presence of [redacted] AFDO [redacted] personnel at the Archives, to include disclosure to person within NARA who do not have a validated need-to-know.

Yup. Some agency, ostensibly that ever-creepier monolith, the NSA, is staffing the D.C. Archives so as to more efficiently reclassify historical documents without the public being aware of it. Rep. Christopher Shays, speaking of a government reform committee meeting addressing the memorandum, had this to say:

This absurd effort to put the toothpaste back into the tube persists despite the growing consensus -- supported by testimony before this Subcommittee -- that from 50 to 90 percent of the material currently withheld should not be classified at all.

Far more disturbing than this revelation is the simple fact that we only found about this program because an academic archivist filed a FOIA request for an obscure document.

Just to freak you out a little more -- NSA looks to be staffing more than just archives. Lindsay over at PEEK today points to former AT&T employee Mark Klein's statement about separate rooms established at AT&T headquarters throughout the country. These are designed to feed customer communications directly to the NSA. From Klein's observations, a separate task-force was employed to work in the secret rooms:

While doing my job, I learned that fiber optic cables from the secret room were tapping into the Worldnet (AT&T's internet service) circuits by splitting off a portion of the light signal," Klein wrote. The split circuits included traffic from peering links connecting to other internet backbone providers, meaning that AT&T was also diverting traffic routed from its network to or from other domestic and international providers…

Meaning that those being wiretapped are not limited to AT&T customers.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri is an assistant editor at AlterNet.