[Intelforum] Secrecy News -- 05/02/12
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from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2012, Issue No. 41
May 2, 2012
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
** CLASSIFIED RECORDS SAID TO BE MISSING FROM NATIONAL ARCHIVES
** US V. JONES ON GPS MONITORING, AND MORE FROM CRS
CLASSIFIED RECORDS SAID TO BE MISSING FROM NATIONAL ARCHIVES
More than a thousand boxes of classified government records are believed
to be missing from the Washington National Records Center (WNRC) of the
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), a three-year Inspector
General investigation found.
But there are no indications of theft or espionage, an official said.
An inventory of the holdings at the Records Center determined that 81
boxes containing Top Secret information or Restricted Data (nuclear weapons
information) were missing. As of March 2011, an additional 1,540 boxes of
material classified at the Secret or Confidential level also could not be
located or accounted for, the Inspector General report on the matter said.
Each box can hold approximately 1.1 cubic feet or 2000 to 2500 sheets of
The missing records "represent an ongoing failure at WNRC to protect some
of the most sensitive information produced by the Federal Government,"
wrote NARA Inspector General Paul Brachfeld in a 2009 letter to the Acting
The IG report on the matter implied that it could constitute a violation
of the Espionage Act, citing "alleged violations" of the espionage statues
including prohibitions on "gathering, transmitting or losing defense
information" (section 793), "disclosure of classified information" (section
798), and "unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or
material" (section 1924).
The results of the Inspector General investigation were first reported
today in "Secret files missing at National Archives" by Jim McElhatton, The
Washington Times (www.washingtontimes.com), May 2.
The 2011 Inspector General report of investigation, released under the
Freedom of Information Act, may be found here:
The missing records originated in the Office of the Secretary of Defense,
the Army, the Navy, the Department of Energy, and other agencies.
The Inspector General report said that "At some point, the originating
agency will have to make a determination on the effect the missing
materials (from the missing 81 boxes) have on national security."
In the meantime, "the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been notified of
the missing classified materials per Department of Justice requirements."
The problem of wayward official records, both classifed and unclassified,
is not a new one. "In 1998 and 2004, WNRC conducted inventories of its
classified holdings," the Inspector General noted. "Both inventories
revealed missing classified records."
But more precisely, the inventories revealed discrepancies between the
agency catalogs and the records on the shelf. It is not entirely certain
that any records have actually left official custody. Today's archival
catalogs are pre-populated with the contents of a legacy hardcopy card
catalog system that dates back many decades and that is inherently prone to
While poor records management practices are always problematic, there are
several factors that would tend to mitigate the significance of the
Many of the purportedly missing records are more than fifty years old,
including one collection of pre-WWII records on "hydraulics." Almost all
the records are more than 25 years old, and should have been declassified
long ago. The Washington National Records Center is not cleared for
intelligence records, and no such records are thought to be missing.
US V. JONES ON GPS MONITORING, AND MORE FROM CRS
New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have
not been made readily available to the public include the following.
United States v. Jones: GPS Monitoring, Property, and Privacy, April 30,
China's Rare Earth Industry and Export Regime: Economic and Trade
Implications for the United States, April 30, 2012:
Federal Agency Actions Following the Supreme Court's Climate Change
Decision in Massachusetts v. EPA: A Chronology, May 1, 2012:
The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement: Background and Issues, April 27,
Issues and Challenges for Federal Geospatial Information, April 27, 2012:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the
Federation of American Scientists.
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