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New Declassification Process To Open 400 Million Pages of Records 135

Posted by timothy
from the what-do-you-want-to-see dept.
linzeal writes "The newly minted National Declassification Center has been tasked by President Obama with eliminating the backlog of more than 400 million pages of classified records that are more than 25 years old by the end of 2013. The National Archives has prepared a draft prioritization plan to guide its declassification activities, and has invited public input on the plan. A public forum on the subject will be held on June 23. This may be a bonanza for the community of historians and intelligence buffs who have been left without significant source material to work with, in some cases since WWII, especially in terms of any information on cryptography, image analysis, and espionage."
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New Declassification Process To Open 400 Million Pages of Records

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  • ya right (Score:5, Informative)

    by Izabael_DaJinn (1231856) <slashdot@nOsPAM.izabael.com> on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:50PM (#32528046) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone on /. honest believe anything seriously juicy or even particularly interesting would *ever* be released to the public. "Likelihood of Declassification – Factors include complexity of information, volume of tabs (exemptions, exclusions, referrals) and age of material. There are a number of lower level classified records which may lend themselves to quick turnaround, while other records contain classified information that must be protected under E.O. 13526 and will not result in significant public release."

    This is from: "THE NATIONAL DECLASSIFICATION CENTER Releasing All We Can, Protecting What We Must National Declassification Center Prioritization Plan" mmmk

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Peach Rings (1782482)

      The Freedom of Information Act seems to be working pretty well despite resulting in mass humiliation for countless officials.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The Freedom of Information Act seems to be working pretty well despite resulting in mass humiliation for countless officials.

        Yeah, it worked so well getting a copy of this [collateralmurder.com] ... oh wait, it didn't. Tell me, why is information like that even allowed to be classified? If my tax dollars are paying to have Beavis and Butthead murder children in the desert, I have a right to know about it.

    • by c0d3g33k (102699)

      I believe that something interesting is likely to slip through if only through oversight or incompetence. Even that would not be a possibility if nothing were declassified and released, so I say bring it on and make the odds more favorable.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by linzeal (197905)
        They are not releasing documents that even have one word of classified information on them, to err that far on the side of caution and refuse to attempt any redaction before releasing to the public means we are likely to be waiting till the next world war to read some of the documents from the second one.
    • Re:ya right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @05:00PM (#32528180)

      Does anyone on /. honest believe anything seriously juicy or even particularly interesting would *ever* be released to the public.

      Depends on your definition of 'juicy' - this kind of information is a treasure-trove for historians. Not Nicholas Cage "National Treasure" 'historians' but the real guys who record the fundamentals of who/what/where/when/how and sometimes the why of our government operations. The motivation to over-classify is particularly strong - no one ever got sent to prison for not releasing a document. But keeping this stuff hidden has all kinds of long-term bad effects, such as an inability to learn from previous mistakes, duplication of effort and a bunch more stuff that isn't about malfeasance but is extremely important to healthy governance.

    • We'll finally learn what was going on at Area 51 and the true origins of Marvin The Martian.

      But how much is this going to cost?

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You know, people bitch and moan about more transparency in government. When government finally gets off its ass trying to be more transparent like people want, what do they do? That's right, bitch and moan even more that its not good enough.

      Yes, this isn't perfect, but its a goddamn start, and never would have happened in a million years under the previous administration.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Does anyone on /. honest believe anything seriously juicy or even particularly interesting would *ever* be released to the public.

      It's not going to be the equivalent of The CIA's "family jewels" [slashdot.org], but it will still be of interest to government watchdogs who are willing to sift through the data (by means manual or automated) to find contradictions, omissions and the like.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kenoli (934612)
      Not being 'seriously juicy or even particularly interesting' is probably the main reason many of them need to be declassified in the first place. Guarding worthless secrets is a waste of effort.
    • Re:ya right (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @05:27PM (#32528540)

      Wasn't too long ago that Project Oxcart was declassified, that was pretty juicy for me. Served as the precursor to one of the coolest, most impressive planes ever built.

    • Re:ya right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:11PM (#32529094) Homepage

      Does anyone on /. honest believe anything seriously juicy or even particularly interesting would *ever* be released to the public.

      That depends on your definition of interesting. There's lots of material that is still classified that would never make the evening news when it's released, but which would be of considerable interest to historians, economists, engineers, geeks, etc... etc...
       
      Just because it doesn't cause a scandal doesn't mean it's not important or interesting.

      • by jd (1658)

        Tidbits are said to include the following: "Our replacement for the SHA1 algorithm shall be SKA1, which will involve strangely-dressed men wielding saxophones".

        • by dave420 (699308)
          Titbits, please! Tit is not rude, and doesn't need to be prudishly avoided. And, back on topic, you failed to specifically mention the pork-pie hats. ;)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Does anyone on /. honest believe anything seriously juicy or even particularly interesting would *ever* be released to the public.

      Cool stuff gets declassified all the time. The Los Alamos Primer [wikipedia.org] was a pretty awesome read, and it was declassified in 1965 - only 20 years after the bomb was invented.

      If you'd like something more recent, how about the SR-71 Blackbird Flight Manual [sr-71.org]?

    • > Does anyone on /. honest believe anything seriously juicy or even particularly interesting would *ever* be released to the public

      Considering there are numerous levels of classification above Top Secret (i.e. Cosmic Clearance), and that the President is not even allowed access to some of them, to answer your question: Sadly, no.

    • I think you forget that the government just declassified portions of COMINT and SIGINT documents dating back to 1933. These documents were the precursor to the NSA run by the US Army Signal Corps. In the case of cryptographic information, 25 years is an awfully short period. I found many of the documents that were declassified from '33 to contain tons of extremely interesting and historically valuable information.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by HotBBQ (714130)
      As someone who holds a DoD security clearance I can assure you that nothing juicy will be released. This isn't because it would be harmful, but because 99.9% of classified material is spectacularly devoid of anything interesting.
  • 400m pages!!! = big win for PR.

  • by ymmv (1830924) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:52PM (#32528080)
    So everything about JFK & Marylin Monroe deaths ?
    • by hguorbray (967940)
      not until 2017:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy_assassination#Sealing_of_assassination_records

      and certain parts of the autopsy report X-rays and photos are in the National Archives under restricted access.

      According to Conspiracy buffs the Bush and the Hunt family had something to do with the assassination:

      http://www.tomflocco.com/fs/FbiMemoPhotoLinkBushJfk.htm

      I'm just sayin'
    • by dpilot (134227)

      Anyone remember the old SNL skit?

      JFK and MM checked into their hotel room. She put on her glasses and began giving him political advice, both domestic and international - helping him run the country. He gave her career advice. Later they discussed how the "affair cover" wasn't going to last forever, and they'd have to think of a new way to exchange advice and information.

  • If so, looks like Gary McKinnon [slashdot.org] has really, really bad timing.
  • by alfredos (1694270) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:54PM (#32528102)
    Not that previous posters don't have a point, but transparency in governments has to start somewhere. Far from perfect, late, and everything else, but at least it's a start.
  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @04:55PM (#32528122) Homepage

    "...eliminating the backlog of more than 400 million pages of classified records..."

    Sounds like a job for FIRE!

  • Twenty-five years is a ridiculous amount of time to keep things from the people that you were elected to represent. Please someone, anyone, name me an item from 1984 that would have ended the world as we know it were it discovered prior to this year.

    All the 'really juicy' things that would jeopardize anyone are either:

    A) Not going to be released anyway. Not ever.
    or
    B) Long since irrelevant.

    Looking deeper into B, this would include anything that the enemy's own intelligence efforts would have obtained long,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeng (926980)

      Could be something as nice as when we set up the Soviets natural gas pipeline to blow by providing them sabotaged parts. Something that we couldn't really fess up to at the time, but now we parade it as one of the covert successes of the cold war.

      Could be something as wrong as Iran-contra.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Agent A recruits Agent B recruits Agent C... Agent A retires and it is disclosed that he is an agent. Agent B had contact with Agent A and is therefore suspect and Agent C may be exposed by this. Similarly breaking Nazi encryption was kept secret because the mistakes allowing to be broken could be made with other ciphers and used to break them. 25 years is about the time after which we can assume the "bad guys" know anyway.

    • by c++0xFF (1758032) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @05:30PM (#32528584)

      Twenty-five years is a ridiculous amount of time to keep things from the people that you were elected to represent. Please someone, anyone, name me an item from 1984 that would have ended the world as we know it were it discovered prior to this year.

      Rockets

      We certainly don't want N. Korea to have our 1984-level rocketry capability, now do we?

      Atomic Weapons

      1984 atomic bombs are just as deadly ... why should we give Iran a leg-up?

      Spies

      Do we still have spies in place from the cold war? If it a long time to get them into place, you might as well leave them there for as long as possible.

      ------

      That said, 25 years is a long time for most things, and I believe the above have exceptions so that they wouldn't be released anyway. But maybe it's better to set a definite time period that's sufficient for most things than to make it too short.

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        See the caveat labeled 'A'.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        We certainly don't want N. Korea to have our 1984-level rocketry capability, now do we?

        North Korea doesn't have the industrial capacity to manufacture your old rockets, even if they obtained full blueprints. Neither do you, for that matter.

        1984 atomic bombs are just as deadly ... why should we give Iran a leg-up?

        Nuclear physics aren't secret. The hard part in building nuclear weapons is obtaining sufficiently pure uranium/plutonium, not assembling it into a bomb. And even if it was, do you really think th

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      Twenty-five years is a ridiculous amount of time to keep things from the people that you were elected to represent.

      Thanks to there being no term limits on Congress, there may be things in those documents about people who are still in office.

  • ...removing all the juicy tidbits before releasing 400 million pages of meaningless filler.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday June 10, 2010 @05:14PM (#32528372)

    Finally, you'll all see that there *were* aliens at Roswell. "Those Air Force bases were just testing secret aircraft and spy-gear," you said. "The military cover-ups were to keep the Soviets from finding out about our secret spying programs," you said. "It's no coincidence that all those UFO sightings just happened to be around secretive military bases at the height of the Cold War," you said. "Move out of my basement," my Mom said.

    Now you'll all see, and you'll finally respect me for realizing that the most obvious explanation for strange lights around Air Forces bases and secretive military coverups during the Cold War-era was that we were being visited by aliens who had traveled across the vast distances of interstellar space to shove probes up our asses.

    • by Tmack (593755)
      The stock price of Alcoa will skyrocket as the national reserves of tinfoil plummets...
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe you should take your girlfriend(1) to Cambodia. I hear you can get a lobster dinner there for like $1.

      (1) Yeah, I know this is /. but if he happens to be running a video store in New York.....

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Um...2010-25 = 1985.

      Roswell was declassified decades ago.

      • Um...2010-25 = 1985.

        Roswell was declassified decades ago.

        And the coverup that produced the 'declassified' Roswell incident was declassified when? ;)

    • Well, perhaps the aliens were shoving probes up our asses. After all, alien technology gave us teh Internet, and that gave us more examples of anal probes then anything in history.
  • by kaoshin (110328) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @05:19PM (#32528428)

    I wonder how many black magic markers that takes.

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      1) Invest in Magic Markers!
      2) Poke at old conspiracy theories.
      3) Profit.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      They don't use markers any more. Too prone to bleed-through of shading allowing the words to be read anyway.

      They redact with scissors now.

  • by HaeMaker (221642) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @05:40PM (#32528734) Homepage

    The amount of documentation that the NDC considers of high public interest but difficult to declassify is 151,793 cubic feet of paper.

    That is a cube 1/10 of a mile on each side. Accoring to a random estimate on the internet, a cubic foot of paper is approximately 9.24 reams of paper (500 sheets). So, 151,793 cubic feet of paper is about 700 million sheets.

    That's a big twinkie.

    • by Bert64 (520050)

      Yes but paper is a relatively inefficient storage mechanism, if converted to a sensible text+images format (ie not just scanned to a bitmap dump), this wouldn't be especially large as digital data... I bet you could fit all of it on a single modern HD... Take a few copies for backup purposes and all that paper could be recycled.

      • Yes but paper is a relatively inefficient storage mechanism, if converted to a sensible text+images format (ie not just scanned to a bitmap dump), this wouldn't be especially large as digital data... I bet you could fit all of it on a single modern HD... Take a few copies for backup purposes and all that paper could be recycled.

        I'll get right back to 1985 and tell them to start working on it.

  • Don't feel bad (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Don't feel bad about the long time between when the events occurred and when they become declassified. In Canada, things like invoices and reciepts from world war two are kept classified for 35 years. Operational histories of events are published after 45 years (troop movements, etc). Senior staff orders at the secret level are kept classified up to 65 years, and top secret stuff is kept for 85 years (if its kept at all). Secret length is directly proportional to how juicy the bits of tid are.

    • by Bert64 (520050)

      Troop movements are a pretty pointless thing to keep secret for a long time, sure it's important to keep them secret at the time the movements are taking place but once your troops have moved the enemy can simply see this for himself... Also once the war is over or the troops have moved on it's of little importance..

      • Troop movements are a pretty pointless thing to keep secret for a long time, sure it's important to keep them secret at the time the movements are taking place but once your troops have moved the enemy can simply see this for himself...

        What if the enemy never DID see?

        There are reasons that the movements are kept secret.

    • by lul_wat (1623489)
      Canada has secrets? I knew you were up to no good up there in the snow! What is it, some kind of super-moose?
  • by s122604 (1018036) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @05:57PM (#32528930)
    I give fox news about a day, to come up with story that implies that this means that Obama is wreckless, hates America, etc...

    surely with a headline as stupid as what I came up with
  • "Classify everything, let NDC sort it out"

  • by Bert64 (520050) <bert@noSPam.slashdot.firenzee.com> on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:37PM (#32529402) Homepage

    Isn't it wrong when copyrighted material is protected longer than classified government secrets...

    • by blair1q (305137)

      Well, no.

      Copyright belongs to a private citizen.

      Government information belongs to you.

      You don't want it kept from you, since it's yours, and you paid to create it. You want it kept from you only so long as hiding it keeps people, maybe including you, from dying at the hands of our enemies.

      The private citizen who owns his own copyright material doesn't want you to have it for free, since it's his, and he paid to create it. He wants it kept from you essentially forever, or at least as long as he and his fir

      • by tsm_sf (545316)
        You want it kept from you only so long as hiding it keeps people, maybe including you, from dying at the hands of our enemies.

        It would be frightening indeed if the state were to somehow shift the definition of "enemy" into an intangible concept. Fortunately we're too informed and, damn it, too smart to fall for a cheap trick like that.
      • by ultranova (717540)

        The private citizen who owns his own copyright material doesn't want you to have it for free, since it's his, and he paid to create it. He wants it kept from you essentially forever, or at least as long as he and his first generation of children are alive to profit from his investment and creativity.

        Sure, he can keep it forever, no argument here. Keep your CD, DVD, tape, HD, whatever. Just don't tell me I can't tell others the contents in whatever detail I wish if you showed them to me.

        Once you give a copy

        • by blair1q (305137)

          Er, you have that backwards.

          You aren't entitled to sell someone else's creation, ever, at all, but the law recognizes there are limits to how much burden the law can take, so it gives you the privilege of doing so after two generations.

          This also has the consequence that the people holding the copyright have a limited time to profit from it, and so they will make it available to those who want it.

          How much you pay for it depends entirely on how much you're willing to pay for it. That's true of every transact

          • by ultranova (717540)

            You aren't entitled to sell someone else's creation, ever, at all, but the law recognizes there are limits to how much burden the law can take, so it gives you the privilege of doing so after two generations.

            You created it. Then you sold someone a copy. At that point, the copy is that someone else's property. It's not yours anymore. That someone else is, in fact, entitled to sell it, or make a hundred thousand copies and sellign them. Copyright law tries to subvert this to give financial incentive for crea

            • by blair1q (305137)

              "or make a hundred thousand copies and sellign them"

              No. They can sell the copy they bought. Unless what they bought was a non-transferrable license to possess a copy, but that's beside the point, we're discussing innate legality, not negotiated contracts.

              Copyright exists so that people with no creativity can't steal the value of things that are created.

              As for command economy, it's not about finding the rules ridiculous; it's about the difference between value and price. A command economy can't possibly have

    • Isn't it wrong when copyrighted material is protected longer than classified government secrets...

      If that were the case, you'd have a point. But while copyright has a finite length and automatically expires, classification is forever - unless and until it is specifically released.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by grahamd0 (1129971)

        ...copyright has a finite length and automatically expires...

        In theory. We'll see about that the next time a corporate copyright is close to expiration.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dpilot (134227)

          When was the last copyright extension...

          A quick look at google/Wikipedia, and it appears that the next expiration date for "Steamboat Willie" is around 2019, so that's when "limited time" will be redefined yet again.

  • Can we get the ACTA declassified?

  • Oh boy! (Score:3, Informative)

    by nsaspook (20301) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @11:15PM (#32531430) Homepage

    Sorry, all the KGB blackmail porn was on Betamax tapes. The transcribed copies might still be in there somewhere.

    http://english.pravda.ru/fun/2002/07/08/32009.html [pravda.ru]

  • When you can tell me definitively who shot JFK.

  • I know everyone seems to be popping wood over the treasure trove of 'secrets' expected, but honestly: the point of Obama's efforts is that far, far too much material was going into 'classified' status that just wasn't justified. As I recall it had also been a stated goal of Bush II and Clinton, to reduce the amount of overclassification going on. Futher, this isn't some sort of swath of automatically-declassified docs, I think we can all be sure that this pile has been thoroughly sorted through and culled

    • a stated goal of Bush II and Clinton, to reduce the amount of overclassification going on.

      And Jr. did it by losing material? There's only so much stuff you can stuff in man-sized safes.
      My point is: Bush Jr. had stuff RE-classified, so I'm thinking that his stated goal might have been the opposite of his real goal.

      • by argStyopa (232550)

        ...and Clinton was too busy getting blowjobs to care.

        Neither point is actually relevant, but one of us is so seething with hatred for Bush II that it just HAS to be said, right?

        • ...and Clinton was too busy getting blowjobs to care.

          Neither point is actually relevant, but one of us is so seething with hatred for Bush II that it just HAS to be said, right?

          No, Bush2 RECLASSIFIED documents. Do you understand that word? Do you know what it means? Can you comprehend the difference between declassifying things that are secret, and making secret again things that had been declassified?

          • by argStyopa (232550)

            You might want to check your facts before sparking the Lefty nerdrage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._reclassification_program [wikipedia.org]

            "The U.S. intelligence community's secret historical document reclassification program is a project to reclassify certain documents that have already been declassified and released to the public through the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The program was started under the Clinton administration in the fall of 1999 (Executive Order 13142). It sought to be cove

            • Isn't it funny that it was only a heinous thing suddenly when BUSH was president?

              Dear fucktard, I didn't say anything that would lead an honest and intelligent person to think I like Clinton, but you're so busy virtually sucking Bush cock you just can't help but assume I would be the same kind of lowlife as you but with a different cock. Please DIAF and never ever again spew your bullshit at anyone else.

  • by LeepII (946831) on Friday June 11, 2010 @07:00AM (#32533460)
    What I would like declassified is the Nov 1941 intercepts of the Japanese fleet. The United States had cracked the Japanese code early in 1941, and you can read transcripts of their radio messages up to July-August of 1941, then nothing. What could still be vital to national security that over 70 years later it is still classified?

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