Groups to National Archives: Don’t Let the CIA Destroy Its Emails

OpenTheGovernment.org and 16 other open government, civil liberties and human rights groups have asked the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to reject a CIA request for increased authority to destroy email records.

As first reported by Steven Aftergood, the CIA has asked NARA for authority to destroy the emails from all but 22 of its personnel “at 3 years” after their departure from the agency “or when no longer needed, whichever is sooner.” The groups’ letter asks NARA to reconsider its tentative approval of this proposal, which could “allow the destruction of crucial documentary evidence regarding the CIA’s activities before Congress, the public, or the courts have any opportunity to access them.”

At a minimum, the letter requests that NARA postpone a final decision on the CIA’s proposal request until:

  1. NARA reviews a sample of CIA emails to ensure that no unique, historically valuable material will be destroyed.
  2. The CIA finally answers NARA’s requests to account for its 2005 destruction of videotapes showing waterboarding and other torture methods, which the CIA has maintained was not a violation of the Federal Records Act.
  3. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence publishes the Executive Summary of its study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, and the public can evaluate the extent to which the Senate torture report relied on unique information preserved in CIA email records.

The letter quotes Tim Weiner, author of the National Book Award-winning CIA history Legacy of Ashes, who said that the CIA’s proposal “has the potential of eradicating the history of the CIA….unless unique copies are preserved, there goes the official record of what the agency does.” Weiner continued, “this regulation cannot be allowed to be promulgated unless there is a systemic, orderly, legally enforced way to systematically preserve these documents.”

The following groups signed the letter, which is available for download here:

American Civil Liberties Union

American Library Association

Appeal for Justice

Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC)

Center for Media and Democracy

Center for Victims of Torture

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

Constitutional Alliance

Defending Dissent Foundation

Government Accountability Project

Human Rights Watch

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

National Security Archive

OpenTheGovernment.org

PEN American Center

Project on Government Oversight (POGO)

Sunlight Foundation

For further comments, please contact Katherine Hawkins, OpenTheGovernment.org’s National Security Fellow, at 202-332-0251.

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