As part of a secret operation in place for over seven years, over 55,000 documents have been removed from the National Archives by various intelligence agencies. Historians are baffled as to why some of these documents would be reclassified. Others, for sure, are meant to expunge embarrassing moments. Here’s a sampling of removed documents from an article in the New York Times, “U.S. Reclassifies Many Documents in Secret Review” :
* a memorandum on a C.I.A. scheme to float balloons over countries behind the Iron Curtain and drop propaganda leaflets. It was reclassified in 2001 even though it had been published by the State Department in 1996.
* a 1962 telegram from George F. Kennan, then ambassador to Yugoslavia, containing an English translation of a Belgrade newspaper article on China’s nuclear weapons program.
* the C.I.A.’s assessment on Oct. 12, 1950, that Chinese intervention in the Korean War was “not probable in 1950.” Just two weeks later, on Oct. 27, some 300,000 Chinese troops crossed into Korea.
All of this raises the question, What’s a clandestinely inclined government to do when rogue reclassified documents reside in privately held collections? Let’s see – eighteen such documents, from the collection of intelligence historian Matthew Aid, are now up on the website of the National Security Archive, a research group at George Washington University.