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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

NARA digitizes 374 treaties between indigenous peoples and the US

Thanks to an anonymous donation, the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has “conserved and digitized the Ratified Indian treaties in its holdings,” 374 treaties between indigenous peoples and the United States (and its predecessor colonies). The IDA Treaties Explorer lets one also explore maps and see which tribes are associated with which treaties. This is an amazing collection of historical documents!

[HT to Kottke.org: Home of Fine Hypertext Products!]

Comments to NARA re Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Document Destruction Proposal

Earlier this week, we posted to let readers know about the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) draft records schedule submitted to NARA that would destroy important civil rights records. CBP was asking for NARA’s approval to destroy after four years “records developed to track and monitor complaints that are or will be investigated by DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) regarding alleged violations of civil rights and civil liberties” and associated “Requests for Information” (NARA RFC Control Number DAA-0568-2018-0001).

CBP further proposed 25-year retention periods for “records pertaining to administrative and criminal investigations on [CBP] employees, contractors, and those in CBP custody,” as well as records and reports pertaining to Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) allegations. A July 9, 2020 NARA appraisal memorandum accompanying the Proposed CBP Schedule recommends approving it in full (Appraisal Memorandum is at the end of the proposed CBP records schedule (p11-14)). The ACLU has more background and context on these important records.

A group of organizations working on immigration issues, government accountability, civil liberties, refugee and immigration history, libraries, and more (including PEGI Project and FGI!) have signed on to a letter to NARA raising deep concerns (PDF) regarding CBP’s proposed records schedule and requesting that NARA revise the schedule and permanently retain the records at issue. The letter is extremely thorough and deeply researched and shows how researchers use NARA’s records, puts agencies’ FOIA support (or lack thereof) in historical relief, and offers a strong argument for why these records in particular from the CBP should be designated as permanent.

I encourage our readers to read the letter. Records retention of federal agency records is extremely important to a wide swath of professional, library, and civil society organizations. And this is a great example for how to write a comment to a federal agency.

Please send comments to NARA re CBP’s draft records schedule seeking to destroy important civil rights records

[UPDATED 9/28/2020 5:30pm PST: I’ve taken down the link to the Google form. Please submit comments via REGULATIONS.GOV. Thanks! JRJ]

[UPDATED 9/29/2020: I deleted the link to the letter since it was a draft. When the final letter is published, I’ll be sure to post. JRJ]

**** DEADLINE for INDIVIDUAL PUBLIC COMMENTS is WEDNESDAY 30 September ****

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has extended the commenting period to 30 September on a proposed records schedule regarding Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) (Control Number DAA-0568-2018-0001), 85 FR 47248 (Proposed CBP Schedule).

CBP seeks NARA’s approval to destroy after four years “records developed to track and monitor complaints that are or will be investigated by DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) regarding alleged violations of civil rights and civil liberties” and associated “Requests for Information.”

CBP further proposed 25-year retention periods for “records pertaining to administrative and criminal investigations on [CBP] employees, contractors, and those in CBP custody,” as well as records and reports pertaining to Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) allegations. A July 9, 2020 NARA appraisal memorandum accompanying the Proposed CBP Schedule recommends approving it in full (Appraisal Memorandum).

FGI has signed on to a DRAFT letter to NARA raising deep concerns (PDF) regarding CBP’s proposed records schedule and requesting that NARA revise the schedule and permanently retain the records at issue. The comments were crafted by groups working on immigration issues, government accountability, civil liberties, refugee and immigration history, and more. The letter is extremely thorough and shows how researchers use NARA’s records and and offers a strong argument for why these in particular from the CBP should be designated as permanent.

If any of our readers would like to submit individual comments, please feel free to submit directly via regulations.gov (Control Number DAA-0568-2018-0001). You can also read others’ comments on regulations.gov.

**** DEADLINE for INDIVIDUAL PUBLIC COMMENTS is WEDNESDAY 30 September ****

EPA Destroys Water Quality Records, Deceives Archivist of the US

Our friends at CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) broke this story on August 7, 2020 about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) illegally destroying records and lying about it. Oddly enough, EPA didn’t destroy records because they were damaging to the agency’s reputation or were evidence of agency misdeeds. The records were originally damaged by a water sprinkler accident. But instead of acting quickly to dry the records, they let them fester for several months and get moldy. And then they didn’t follow protocol set under federal law requiring that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) evaluate and approve requests to destroy contaminated records. No, EPA just went ahead and destroyed the records and then the EPA lied to NARA to cover up their incompetence. This is a case that clearly points to the need for improving training and raising the profile and importance of record-keeping within agencies (2 recommendations put forth by the 2018-2020 FOIA Advisory Committee).

Americans must be able to trust that executive agencies are taking care of OUR records. Sadly, in this instance, EPA failed our trust.

The Environmental Protection Agency illegally destroyed records, deceived the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) about that destruction, and falsely blamed the coronavirus pandemic to escape accountability, according to internal documents uncovered by CREW.

via EPA Destroys Water Quality Records, Deceives Archivist – CREW.

Cloud-to-cloud record preservation at the National Archives

Here’s a very interesting interview with Leslie Johnston, the director of digital preservation at NARA, in which she describes “cloud-to-cloud” data transfers as a key process to MARA’s digital preservation efforts. This is another form of “digital deposit” that we’ve been discussing in our GPO digital deposit working group and I hope that we in the FDLP community can explore further. It would be so amazing to have a system in place – and legislation to support said system! – to transfer records from agencies to NARA and publications from agencies to GPO.

Leslie Johnston, Director of Digital Preservation at the U.S. National Archives, explains how NARA’s new Digital Preservation Framework is helping agencies transfer their records to the National Archives cloud as part of a digitization effort driven by law

via Cloud-to-cloud record preservation at the National Archives | Government Matters.

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