February 20, 2006

US removing documents from public access: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence agencies have been
secretly removing from public access at the National Archives
thousands of historical documents that were available for
years, The New York Times reported on Monday.

The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000
previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the CIA and
five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty
release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification
order signed by President Bill Clinton, the Times said on its
Web site.

The secret program accelerated after the Bush
administration took office and especially after the September
11 attacks, according to archives records, the paper said.

It came to light after intelligence historian Matthew Aid
noticed dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been
withdrawn from the archives' open shelves, the Times said.

Under existing guidelines, government documents are
supposed to be declassified after 25 years unless there is a
particular reason to keep them secret.

Some historians say the program is removing material that
can do no conceivable harm to national security and note that
some of the documents have been published by the government,
the Times said.

Critics say it is part of a marked trend toward greater
secrecy under the Bush administration, which has increased the
pace of classifying documents, slowed declassification and
discouraged the release of some material under the Freedom of
Information Act, the paper said.