Bookmark and Share
Overview:

An independent government agency, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) functions as the nation’s record keeper. The agency is responsible for keeping and protecting precious national documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. It also serves to hold public records created by ordinary citizens in trust and manages the federal government’s growing electronic records. The NARA is officially responsible for maintaining and publishing the legally authentic copies of acts of Congress, presidential proclamations, executive orders, and federal regulations. The chief administrator of the NARA, also called the Archivist of the United States, has the authority to declare when a bill has reached the constitutional threshold and has become an amendment. During the past several years, the NARA has been overwhelmed by its immense backlog of records awaiting classification, even as it attempts to digitize its holdings. It has also been under scrutiny for lapses in organization and security that resulted in a White House records data breach, and the disappearance of such historic document as the Wright Brothers’ patent, President Lincoln’s Civil War telegrams, NASA moon photos, and maps of the U.S. atomic bombings of Japan.

 
more
History:

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) was established in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt. The agency served to collect papers and records dating back to 1775, which included slave ship manifests, the Emancipation Proclamation, and, eventually, captured German records and the Japanese surrender documents from World War II. Samples of other documents kept by the agency include: journals of polar expeditions, photographs of Dust Bowl farmers, Indian treaties, and a signed copy of the Louisiana Purchase. 

 

Thomas Jefferson was the first President to express concern for the future of America’s records. Originally, each branch of the federal government was responsible for keeping its own documents, and there was little communication among them. Documents were routinely lost, damaged, or destroyed. It wasn’t until the 1930s that historians and preservationists began to see their hopes of a centralized archive realized. 

 

Architect John Russell Pope was charged with creating the structure that would house the National Archives. They broke ground in 1931, and President Herbert Hoover laid the cornerstone in 1933. After President Roosevelt created the National Archives in 1934, the staff began work in 1935. The NARA was incorporated into the General Services Administration in 1949. In the 1960s, the original archives building reached capacity, and many records were moved off-site to local storage facilities. 

 

In 1985, the National Archives separated again from the General Services Administration and was made into its own agency (as NARA). After several years of planning, a new archives building was completed in 1993.

more
What it Does:

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is responsible for protecting and maintaining the nation’s public and political records. These records are housed in a modern facility in College Park, Maryland, which has enabled the NARA to consolidate its Washington-area records from its original location. The new building measures 2 million cubic feet and can assist up to 390 researchers at a time.

 

NARA keeps only those federal records judged to have continuing value: approximately 1%-3% of those generated in any given year. Currently, there are 9 billion pages of paper records, 7.2 million maps, charts and architectural drawings, more than 20 million still photographs, billions of machine-readable data sets, and more than 365,000 reels of film and 110,000 videotapes. 

 

There are 10 affiliated Archives locations across the U.S., as well as 15 regional facilities. Branches assist federal agencies and the public with research and public workshops designed to help American citizens to learn how to use archived records. The Archives’ Federal Records Centers (FRC) provide federal agencies with storage facilities, as well as access and disposition services for their records and documents. The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, for example, manages the records of millions of 20th century military veterans, as well as those of former federal employees. 

 

The NARA’s primary duties include:

  • Choosing which documents are most likely to have historical import and which show the workings of the government. These documents are also chosen to support long-term research worth or provide new information of value to citizens.
  • Preserving all of its records, whether derived from paper, microfilm, video, film, or other source.
  • Classifying documents into “record groups” that reflect the department or agency from which they originated. These can include paper records, microfilm, still pictures, motion pictures, and electronic media. The Electronic Records Archives (ERA) is currently being developed to preserve, manage, and provide access to electronic records.
  • Making these records available to the general public since works created by the federal government are exempt from copyright protection.
  • Storing classified documents. The agency’s Information Security Oversight Office monitors and sets policy for the U.S. government’s security classification system.
  • Assisting families in genealogical research by providing access to census records from 1790 to 1940, as well as ship passenger lists and naturalization records. 
  • Publishing a daily “gazette” of the U.S. federal government called the Federal Register
  • Providing a record of government proclamations, orders, and regulations. 
  • Assisting non-federal institutions through grants administered by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission
  • Managing and overseeing various presidential libraries which house papers, records and other historical materials relating to U.S. presidents from Herbert Hoover on. Presidential libraries also include information on presidential families and their administration. Museum exhibits and educational programs are combined with these records, which are made available for researchers and students. 
  • Entering into public-private partnerships. In 2006, the NARA announced a joint venture with Google to digitize and offer NARA video online. 
  • Digitizing historic documents through the National Archives and Fold3. A pilot program was launched in 2007 to allow greater access to approximately 4.5 million pages of documents that are currently available only in their original format or on microfilm. 
  • Making thousands of historical films available for purchase through CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. CreateSpace specializes in on-demand distribution of DVDs, CDs, and books. The NARA-CreateSpace partnership will provide the National Archives with digital reference and preservation copies of the films as part of NARA’s preservation program.

 

From the Web Site of the National Archives and Records Administration

Blogs

Events

Calendar of Nationwide Events by Month (pdf)

Career Opportunities

Contact Information

Contractors

Document Recovery

Exhibits Online

FAQs

Features Archive

Foundation

Genealogy Workshops

Grants

Locations Nationwide

Military Records

Missing Clinton Hard Drive

Most Requested Information and Services

Network Directory

News

Organization

Plans and Reports

Preservation Programs

Presidential Libraries

Press Releases

Publications

Records Management

Research the Records

Research Visits

Shop Online

Speeches and Writings by Archivists

Teachers’ Resources

Terrorist Concerns

Veterans’ Service Records

Volunteering

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) spent nearly $1.6 billion on 10,685 transactions during the past decade. According to USASpending.gov, the NARA paid for a variety of services from ADP systems ($345 million) and office building maintenance ($160.4 million) to facilities operations ($143.8 million) and guard services ($142 million). 

 

The top five recipients of NARA contracts are as follows:

1. Lockheed Martin Corporation                                                                    $279,779,455 

2. L B & B Associates Inc.                                                                               $74,260,943 

3. SRA International Inc.                                                                                  $59,765,564

4. Pepco Holdings, Inc.                                                                                     $52,222,173

5. SAIC Inc.                                                                                                      $40,561,823 

           

Lockheed Martin, a leading multinational aerospace manufacturer and defense contractor, is the NARA’s largest contractor and handles much of their automatic processing and telecommunications services. Lockheed Martin is based in Bethesda, Maryland, the Congressional district in which $882.6 million of NARA’s budget has been spent this decade. California, is the second-largest-grossing district, with more than $88.7 million awarded to contractors there.

more
Controversies:

Personal Info Lost, Former Archivist’s Home Raided

Two events in 2010 marred the reputation of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

 

In January, it was revealed the agency lost a computer hard drive containing

sensitive personal information of 250,000 Clinton administration staff members, job applicants, and White House visitors. Also lost was more than 100,000 Social Security numbers. The National Archives could not say whether the computer drive was stolen or just missing from a data processing room in Maryland.

 

Later that year, special agents from the agency’s Office of Inspector General searched the home Leslie Waffen, a retired archivist who had worked at the archives for more than 40 years. Officials wouldn’t say what they were looking for or what they seized from Waffen’s house. The former employee was most recently the head of the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video unit, and had previously done preservation work on the audio recording of the John F. Kennedy assassination.

National Archives Agents Raid Home of Leslie Waffen, Former Archives Department Head (by Elahe Izadi, TBD)

250,000 White House Staffers, Visitors Affected by National Archives Data Breach (by Kim Zetter, Threat Level)

 

Historical Records at Risk

 

An audit in October 2010 accused the National Archives and Records Administration of shoddy security protocols that threatened the loss of important historical documents.

 

The report by the Government Accountability Office stated the National Archives “has not effectively implemented information security controls to sufficiently protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information and systems that support its mission,” adding that “significant weaknesses pervade its systems.”

 

Nearly 80% of government agencies were at risk of illegally destroying public records, the GAO warned, adding the National Archives was backlogged with large volumes of records needing preservation care.

 

The agency had already been criticized for losing sight of key artifacts, such as the Wright Brothers’ original patent and maps for atomic bomb missions in Japan.

Audit: National Archives At Risk (Associated Press)

GAO Declares National Archives’ Information Systems Insecure (Info Security)

 

Historical Records at Risk

An audit in October 2010 accused the National Archives and Records Administration of shoddy security protocols that threatened the loss of important historical documents.

 

The report by the Government Accountability Office stated the National Archives “has not effectively implemented information security controls to sufficiently protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information and systems that support its mission,” adding that “significant weaknesses pervade its systems.”

 

Nearly 80% of government agencies were at risk of illegally destroying public records, the GAO warned, adding the National Archives was backlogged with large volumes of records needing preservation care.

 

The agency had already been criticized for losing sight of key artifacts, such as the Wright Brothers’ original patent and maps for atomic bomb missions in Japan.

Audit: National Archives At Risk (Associated Press)

GAO Declares National Archives’ Information Systems Insecure (Info Security)

 

NARA Archivist “Reclassifies” Documents for National Security

In March 2006, a public hearing revealed that the Archivist of the United States had an understanding and unspoken agreement with various governmental agencies to “reclassify” or withdraw from public access documents deemed dangerous to national security. This was done in secret so that researchers would not notice the missing documents.  

Reclassification Program at National Archives Exposed (Secrecy News)

 

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Loses Artifacts

On November 8, 2007, Reagan Library National Archives officials reported that poor recordkeeping has been responsible for the loss of roughly 80,000 artifacts. Some may be lost inside the huge museum complex, officials said, or may have been stolen outright. They blamed a security breakdown and cited understaffing and underfunding as a possible cause for this lapse. The NARA responded that the Reagan Library has had the most serious problems with their inventory, and U.S. Archivist Allen Weinstein blamed poor software for the mishap. The library has undertaken a massive inventory project that will take years to complete. 

Reagan library items likely lost or pilfered (by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times)

 

National Security Advisor Pleads Guilty to Removing Material from National Archives

On July 22, 2004, The Washington Post reported that Samuel Richard “Sandy” Berger, who served as the United States Security Advisor under President Bill Clinton, had aroused the suspicions of NARA staff who noticed that certain papers were missing. They coded documents to tell more easily if some had disappeared.

 

Berger claimed that the documents he removed were done in order to fight terrorism (he removed them before testifying before the 9/11 Commission), but in April 2005, he pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material from the National Archives in Washington. He was fined $50,000 and sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service. Berger was stripped of his security clearance for 3 years and relinquished his license to practice law. At the time, he was acting as an informal policy adviser to Sen. John Kerry during his campaign for the presidency. Berger later served as a foreign policy adviser to Sen. Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign.

Archives Staff Was Suspicious of Berger: Why Documents Were Missing Is Disputed (by John F. Harris and Susan Schmidt, Washington Post)

Sandy Berger fined $50,000 for taking documents: Must perform 100 hours of community service (CNN)

more
Suggested Reforms:

Suggestions Offered for De-classifying Documents

An advisory board staffed by the National Archives proposed a series of changes in 2011 for how the government should classify and declassify records.

 

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) offered up eight papers on ways to improve public access to formerly classified information and to better manage the transition from paper-based to electronic records.

 

Steven Aftergood, publisher of Secrecy News, noted the recommendations stopped “well short of anything that we would call transformation,” adding the PIDB did not propose “any reductions in the scope of what is classified.”

 

One of the papers proposed creating software to assist the review process. Another proposal required classified digital information to bear standardized metadata.

 

About Transforming Classification (National Archives and Records Administration)

Declassification Board Seeks to Transform System (OMB Watch)

more
Former Directors:

List of Former Archivists

more

Comments

Leave a comment

captcha

Founded: 1934
Annual Budget: $386.7 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 1,660 (FY 2013 Estimate)
Official Website: http://www.archives.gov
National Archives and Records Administration
Ferriero, David
Archevist

 

David S. Ferriero became the tenth Archivist of the United States in November 2009. The first librarian to hold that position, Ferriero heads up the National Archives and Records Administration, the federal agency that maintains and preserves nine billion pages of materials documenting the heritage of the United States. Ferriero was simultaneously appointed by President Obama to oversee the National Declassification Center, whose four-year mission is to review 400-million pages of top secret documents dating back to World War I.
 
Ferriero was raised in Beverly, Massachusetts, by his father Anthony, a Ford dealership salesman and mechanic, and his mother Marie, who cleaned floors at Beverly Hospital to help her son through college. He graduated from Beverly High School in 1963 and then earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English literature from Boston’s Northeastern University. As part of his college’s work-study program, he took a job operating a recreation program for the criminally insane at a Connecticut mental hospital.
 
Ferriero left school to join the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, serving as a corpsman specializing neuron psychiatry and spending a year providing psychiatric care on a hospital ship in Danang, Vietnam. He subsequently enrolled in Boston’s Simmons College of Library and Information Science, earning another Master’s degree.
 
Ferriero then took a job at Cambridge’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology humanities library, where he stayed for 31 years. He first shelved books at the MIT library in 1965. Eventually he worked his way up to associate director for public services and acting co-director of libraries.
 
From October 1996 to 2004, Ferriero worked at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, as its Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library affairs. In that post, he oversaw Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology and raised more than $50-million for library expansion.
 
In September 2004, Ferriero became the Andrew W. Mellon Director and Chief Executive of the Research Libraries at the New York Public Library. In this position, he oversaw a renovation that combined 87 branches and four research libraries into one system, making it one of the world’s largest research libraries. Ferriero was responsible for its digital development, partnering with Microsoft and Google to supply data--including 750,000 digital images--to more than 25-million web subscribers at no cost.
 
Ferriero is married to Gail Zimmerman, Associate General Manager of UNC-TV in Durham, North Carolina.
 
A New Mission for the Librarian Archivist at NARA (interview by Miriam A. Drake, Information Today)
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Transparency (interview by Miriam A. Drake, Information Today)
 
 
more
Weinstein, Allen
Previous Archivist
A native of New York, Dr. Allen Weinstein served as the Ninth Archivist of the United States beginning in February 2005.
 
Weinstein received his PhD in American Studies from Yale University. From 1966 to 1981 he was professor of history at Smith College and chairman of its American Studies Program. He then worked as a professor at Georgetown University from 1981-1984 and from 1981-1983 as executive editor of The Washington Quarterly at Georgetown’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served as professor of history at Boston University from 1985-89.
 
In 1982, Weinstein served as coordinator and vice-chairman of the US delegation to the UNESCO World Conference on Culture. In 1983, he served as vice chairman of the US delegation to a UNESCO conference in Tashkent and chaired election observation delegations in El Salvador (1991), Nicaragua (1989-90, 1996), Panama (1988-89), the Philippines (1985-86) and Russia (1991, 1996, 2000).
 
From 1985 to 2003, Weinstein was president of The Center for Democracy, a non-profit foundation based in Washington, DC, that he created in 1985 to promote and strengthen the democratic process. In 1985, Weinstein was a founding member of the board of directors of the United States Institute of Peace and chairman of its Education and Training Committee, remaining a director until 2001. 
 
Weinstein has been widely published in political and business journals, and he has been a frequent commentator on CNN and other news channels. He is the author of six published books, and his work has appeared in several anthologies. 
 
more
Bookmark and Share
Overview:

An independent government agency, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) functions as the nation’s record keeper. The agency is responsible for keeping and protecting precious national documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. It also serves to hold public records created by ordinary citizens in trust and manages the federal government’s growing electronic records. The NARA is officially responsible for maintaining and publishing the legally authentic copies of acts of Congress, presidential proclamations, executive orders, and federal regulations. The chief administrator of the NARA, also called the Archivist of the United States, has the authority to declare when a bill has reached the constitutional threshold and has become an amendment. During the past several years, the NARA has been overwhelmed by its immense backlog of records awaiting classification, even as it attempts to digitize its holdings. It has also been under scrutiny for lapses in organization and security that resulted in a White House records data breach, and the disappearance of such historic document as the Wright Brothers’ patent, President Lincoln’s Civil War telegrams, NASA moon photos, and maps of the U.S. atomic bombings of Japan.

 
more
History:

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) was established in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt. The agency served to collect papers and records dating back to 1775, which included slave ship manifests, the Emancipation Proclamation, and, eventually, captured German records and the Japanese surrender documents from World War II. Samples of other documents kept by the agency include: journals of polar expeditions, photographs of Dust Bowl farmers, Indian treaties, and a signed copy of the Louisiana Purchase. 

 

Thomas Jefferson was the first President to express concern for the future of America’s records. Originally, each branch of the federal government was responsible for keeping its own documents, and there was little communication among them. Documents were routinely lost, damaged, or destroyed. It wasn’t until the 1930s that historians and preservationists began to see their hopes of a centralized archive realized. 

 

Architect John Russell Pope was charged with creating the structure that would house the National Archives. They broke ground in 1931, and President Herbert Hoover laid the cornerstone in 1933. After President Roosevelt created the National Archives in 1934, the staff began work in 1935. The NARA was incorporated into the General Services Administration in 1949. In the 1960s, the original archives building reached capacity, and many records were moved off-site to local storage facilities. 

 

In 1985, the National Archives separated again from the General Services Administration and was made into its own agency (as NARA). After several years of planning, a new archives building was completed in 1993.

more
What it Does:

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is responsible for protecting and maintaining the nation’s public and political records. These records are housed in a modern facility in College Park, Maryland, which has enabled the NARA to consolidate its Washington-area records from its original location. The new building measures 2 million cubic feet and can assist up to 390 researchers at a time.

 

NARA keeps only those federal records judged to have continuing value: approximately 1%-3% of those generated in any given year. Currently, there are 9 billion pages of paper records, 7.2 million maps, charts and architectural drawings, more than 20 million still photographs, billions of machine-readable data sets, and more than 365,000 reels of film and 110,000 videotapes. 

 

There are 10 affiliated Archives locations across the U.S., as well as 15 regional facilities. Branches assist federal agencies and the public with research and public workshops designed to help American citizens to learn how to use archived records. The Archives’ Federal Records Centers (FRC) provide federal agencies with storage facilities, as well as access and disposition services for their records and documents. The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, for example, manages the records of millions of 20th century military veterans, as well as those of former federal employees. 

 

The NARA’s primary duties include:

  • Choosing which documents are most likely to have historical import and which show the workings of the government. These documents are also chosen to support long-term research worth or provide new information of value to citizens.
  • Preserving all of its records, whether derived from paper, microfilm, video, film, or other source.
  • Classifying documents into “record groups” that reflect the department or agency from which they originated. These can include paper records, microfilm, still pictures, motion pictures, and electronic media. The Electronic Records Archives (ERA) is currently being developed to preserve, manage, and provide access to electronic records.
  • Making these records available to the general public since works created by the federal government are exempt from copyright protection.
  • Storing classified documents. The agency’s Information Security Oversight Office monitors and sets policy for the U.S. government’s security classification system.
  • Assisting families in genealogical research by providing access to census records from 1790 to 1940, as well as ship passenger lists and naturalization records. 
  • Publishing a daily “gazette” of the U.S. federal government called the Federal Register
  • Providing a record of government proclamations, orders, and regulations. 
  • Assisting non-federal institutions through grants administered by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission
  • Managing and overseeing various presidential libraries which house papers, records and other historical materials relating to U.S. presidents from Herbert Hoover on. Presidential libraries also include information on presidential families and their administration. Museum exhibits and educational programs are combined with these records, which are made available for researchers and students. 
  • Entering into public-private partnerships. In 2006, the NARA announced a joint venture with Google to digitize and offer NARA video online. 
  • Digitizing historic documents through the National Archives and Fold3. A pilot program was launched in 2007 to allow greater access to approximately 4.5 million pages of documents that are currently available only in their original format or on microfilm. 
  • Making thousands of historical films available for purchase through CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. CreateSpace specializes in on-demand distribution of DVDs, CDs, and books. The NARA-CreateSpace partnership will provide the National Archives with digital reference and preservation copies of the films as part of NARA’s preservation program.

 

From the Web Site of the National Archives and Records Administration

Blogs

Events

Calendar of Nationwide Events by Month (pdf)

Career Opportunities

Contact Information

Contractors

Document Recovery

Exhibits Online

FAQs

Features Archive

Foundation

Genealogy Workshops

Grants

Locations Nationwide

Military Records

Missing Clinton Hard Drive

Most Requested Information and Services

Network Directory

News

Organization

Plans and Reports

Preservation Programs

Presidential Libraries

Press Releases

Publications

Records Management

Research the Records

Research Visits

Shop Online

Speeches and Writings by Archivists

Teachers’ Resources

Terrorist Concerns

Veterans’ Service Records

Volunteering

more
Where Does the Money Go:

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) spent nearly $1.6 billion on 10,685 transactions during the past decade. According to USASpending.gov, the NARA paid for a variety of services from ADP systems ($345 million) and office building maintenance ($160.4 million) to facilities operations ($143.8 million) and guard services ($142 million). 

 

The top five recipients of NARA contracts are as follows:

1. Lockheed Martin Corporation                                                                    $279,779,455 

2. L B & B Associates Inc.                                                                               $74,260,943 

3. SRA International Inc.                                                                                  $59,765,564

4. Pepco Holdings, Inc.                                                                                     $52,222,173

5. SAIC Inc.                                                                                                      $40,561,823 

           

Lockheed Martin, a leading multinational aerospace manufacturer and defense contractor, is the NARA’s largest contractor and handles much of their automatic processing and telecommunications services. Lockheed Martin is based in Bethesda, Maryland, the Congressional district in which $882.6 million of NARA’s budget has been spent this decade. California, is the second-largest-grossing district, with more than $88.7 million awarded to contractors there.

more
Controversies:

Personal Info Lost, Former Archivist’s Home Raided

Two events in 2010 marred the reputation of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

 

In January, it was revealed the agency lost a computer hard drive containing

sensitive personal information of 250,000 Clinton administration staff members, job applicants, and White House visitors. Also lost was more than 100,000 Social Security numbers. The National Archives could not say whether the computer drive was stolen or just missing from a data processing room in Maryland.

 

Later that year, special agents from the agency’s Office of Inspector General searched the home Leslie Waffen, a retired archivist who had worked at the archives for more than 40 years. Officials wouldn’t say what they were looking for or what they seized from Waffen’s house. The former employee was most recently the head of the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video unit, and had previously done preservation work on the audio recording of the John F. Kennedy assassination.

National Archives Agents Raid Home of Leslie Waffen, Former Archives Department Head (by Elahe Izadi, TBD)

250,000 White House Staffers, Visitors Affected by National Archives Data Breach (by Kim Zetter, Threat Level)

 

Historical Records at Risk

 

An audit in October 2010 accused the National Archives and Records Administration of shoddy security protocols that threatened the loss of important historical documents.

 

The report by the Government Accountability Office stated the National Archives “has not effectively implemented information security controls to sufficiently protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information and systems that support its mission,” adding that “significant weaknesses pervade its systems.”

 

Nearly 80% of government agencies were at risk of illegally destroying public records, the GAO warned, adding the National Archives was backlogged with large volumes of records needing preservation care.

 

The agency had already been criticized for losing sight of key artifacts, such as the Wright Brothers’ original patent and maps for atomic bomb missions in Japan.

Audit: National Archives At Risk (Associated Press)

GAO Declares National Archives’ Information Systems Insecure (Info Security)

 

Historical Records at Risk

An audit in October 2010 accused the National Archives and Records Administration of shoddy security protocols that threatened the loss of important historical documents.

 

The report by the Government Accountability Office stated the National Archives “has not effectively implemented information security controls to sufficiently protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information and systems that support its mission,” adding that “significant weaknesses pervade its systems.”

 

Nearly 80% of government agencies were at risk of illegally destroying public records, the GAO warned, adding the National Archives was backlogged with large volumes of records needing preservation care.

 

The agency had already been criticized for losing sight of key artifacts, such as the Wright Brothers’ original patent and maps for atomic bomb missions in Japan.

Audit: National Archives At Risk (Associated Press)

GAO Declares National Archives’ Information Systems Insecure (Info Security)

 

NARA Archivist “Reclassifies” Documents for National Security

In March 2006, a public hearing revealed that the Archivist of the United States had an understanding and unspoken agreement with various governmental agencies to “reclassify” or withdraw from public access documents deemed dangerous to national security. This was done in secret so that researchers would not notice the missing documents.  

Reclassification Program at National Archives Exposed (Secrecy News)

 

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Loses Artifacts

On November 8, 2007, Reagan Library National Archives officials reported that poor recordkeeping has been responsible for the loss of roughly 80,000 artifacts. Some may be lost inside the huge museum complex, officials said, or may have been stolen outright. They blamed a security breakdown and cited understaffing and underfunding as a possible cause for this lapse. The NARA responded that the Reagan Library has had the most serious problems with their inventory, and U.S. Archivist Allen Weinstein blamed poor software for the mishap. The library has undertaken a massive inventory project that will take years to complete. 

Reagan library items likely lost or pilfered (by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times)

 

National Security Advisor Pleads Guilty to Removing Material from National Archives

On July 22, 2004, The Washington Post reported that Samuel Richard “Sandy” Berger, who served as the United States Security Advisor under President Bill Clinton, had aroused the suspicions of NARA staff who noticed that certain papers were missing. They coded documents to tell more easily if some had disappeared.

 

Berger claimed that the documents he removed were done in order to fight terrorism (he removed them before testifying before the 9/11 Commission), but in April 2005, he pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material from the National Archives in Washington. He was fined $50,000 and sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service. Berger was stripped of his security clearance for 3 years and relinquished his license to practice law. At the time, he was acting as an informal policy adviser to Sen. John Kerry during his campaign for the presidency. Berger later served as a foreign policy adviser to Sen. Hillary Clinton in her 2008 presidential campaign.

Archives Staff Was Suspicious of Berger: Why Documents Were Missing Is Disputed (by John F. Harris and Susan Schmidt, Washington Post)

Sandy Berger fined $50,000 for taking documents: Must perform 100 hours of community service (CNN)

more
Suggested Reforms:

Suggestions Offered for De-classifying Documents

An advisory board staffed by the National Archives proposed a series of changes in 2011 for how the government should classify and declassify records.

 

The Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) offered up eight papers on ways to improve public access to formerly classified information and to better manage the transition from paper-based to electronic records.

 

Steven Aftergood, publisher of Secrecy News, noted the recommendations stopped “well short of anything that we would call transformation,” adding the PIDB did not propose “any reductions in the scope of what is classified.”

 

One of the papers proposed creating software to assist the review process. Another proposal required classified digital information to bear standardized metadata.

 

About Transforming Classification (National Archives and Records Administration)

Declassification Board Seeks to Transform System (OMB Watch)

more
Former Directors:

List of Former Archivists

more

Comments

Leave a comment

captcha

Founded: 1934
Annual Budget: $386.7 million (FY 2013 Request)
Employees: 1,660 (FY 2013 Estimate)
Official Website: http://www.archives.gov
National Archives and Records Administration
Ferriero, David
Archevist

 

David S. Ferriero became the tenth Archivist of the United States in November 2009. The first librarian to hold that position, Ferriero heads up the National Archives and Records Administration, the federal agency that maintains and preserves nine billion pages of materials documenting the heritage of the United States. Ferriero was simultaneously appointed by President Obama to oversee the National Declassification Center, whose four-year mission is to review 400-million pages of top secret documents dating back to World War I.
 
Ferriero was raised in Beverly, Massachusetts, by his father Anthony, a Ford dealership salesman and mechanic, and his mother Marie, who cleaned floors at Beverly Hospital to help her son through college. He graduated from Beverly High School in 1963 and then earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English literature from Boston’s Northeastern University. As part of his college’s work-study program, he took a job operating a recreation program for the criminally insane at a Connecticut mental hospital.
 
Ferriero left school to join the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, serving as a corpsman specializing neuron psychiatry and spending a year providing psychiatric care on a hospital ship in Danang, Vietnam. He subsequently enrolled in Boston’s Simmons College of Library and Information Science, earning another Master’s degree.
 
Ferriero then took a job at Cambridge’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology humanities library, where he stayed for 31 years. He first shelved books at the MIT library in 1965. Eventually he worked his way up to associate director for public services and acting co-director of libraries.
 
From October 1996 to 2004, Ferriero worked at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, as its Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library affairs. In that post, he oversaw Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology and raised more than $50-million for library expansion.
 
In September 2004, Ferriero became the Andrew W. Mellon Director and Chief Executive of the Research Libraries at the New York Public Library. In this position, he oversaw a renovation that combined 87 branches and four research libraries into one system, making it one of the world’s largest research libraries. Ferriero was responsible for its digital development, partnering with Microsoft and Google to supply data--including 750,000 digital images--to more than 25-million web subscribers at no cost.
 
Ferriero is married to Gail Zimmerman, Associate General Manager of UNC-TV in Durham, North Carolina.
 
A New Mission for the Librarian Archivist at NARA (interview by Miriam A. Drake, Information Today)
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Transparency (interview by Miriam A. Drake, Information Today)
 
 
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Weinstein, Allen
Previous Archivist
A native of New York, Dr. Allen Weinstein served as the Ninth Archivist of the United States beginning in February 2005.
 
Weinstein received his PhD in American Studies from Yale University. From 1966 to 1981 he was professor of history at Smith College and chairman of its American Studies Program. He then worked as a professor at Georgetown University from 1981-1984 and from 1981-1983 as executive editor of The Washington Quarterly at Georgetown’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. He served as professor of history at Boston University from 1985-89.
 
In 1982, Weinstein served as coordinator and vice-chairman of the US delegation to the UNESCO World Conference on Culture. In 1983, he served as vice chairman of the US delegation to a UNESCO conference in Tashkent and chaired election observation delegations in El Salvador (1991), Nicaragua (1989-90, 1996), Panama (1988-89), the Philippines (1985-86) and Russia (1991, 1996, 2000).
 
From 1985 to 2003, Weinstein was president of The Center for Democracy, a non-profit foundation based in Washington, DC, that he created in 1985 to promote and strengthen the democratic process. In 1985, Weinstein was a founding member of the board of directors of the United States Institute of Peace and chairman of its Education and Training Committee, remaining a director until 2001. 
 
Weinstein has been widely published in political and business journals, and he has been a frequent commentator on CNN and other news channels. He is the author of six published books, and his work has appeared in several anthologies. 
 
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