Paging Mr. Orwell…

Why? Why, why, and more why?

In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.

The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the Central Intelligence Agency 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. It accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to archives records.

But because the reclassification program is itself shrouded in secrecy — governed by a still-classified memorandum that prohibits the National Archives even from saying which agencies are involved — it continued virtually without outside notice until December. That was when an intelligence historian, Matthew M. Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves…

The intelligence agencies take the position that the reclassified documents were never properly declassified, even though they were reviewed, stamped "declassified," freely given to researchers and even published, he said.

Thus, the agencies argue, the documents remain classified — and pulling them from public access is not really reclassification.
But it is doubleplusgood.

Laura Rozen over at War and Piece notes:

It has little to do that I can see with partisan politics, nothing apparent to do with current national security concerns, and everything to do with these guys' basic lack of regard for the public, in favor of government operating with increasing powers and less opportunity for scrutiny or even reflection at home. Just one more glint of sunshine snuffed out with a quiet order.
Exactly right. Most of the stuff being reclassified doesn’t even sound particularly noteworthy. But that’s not the point. The point is that this is yet another unnecessary power grab, imbuing the administration with more control over what we know and to what we have access—a move hidden behind a wall of secrecy.

There are many Americans who don’t seem to have a problem with the executive branch assuming unequal powers, operating on the theory of the unitary executive wherein Congress and the judiciary act not as a check or a balance, but in the service of a dictatorial president. And there are many Americans who don’t seem to have a problem with ceding their own rights and liberties, including their rights to privacy and access to their country’s history, on behalf of the goal of further strengthening the unitary executive.

These Americans are wrong.

That’s not how a democracy works; certainly not how this democracy was meant to work. We seem to have forgotten that the president works for us. The vice president works for us The executive cabinet and advisors work for us. And most disturbingly, they all seem to have forgotten that, too.

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