On April 24, 2008, the Senate Judiciary Committee, by a vote of 11-8, voted to approve S. 2533, the “State Secrets Protection Act.” The state secrets privilege allows the executive branch to block discovery in civil litigation when the government believes that there is an unacceptable risk of disclosure of sensitive national security secrets. The intent of the legislation is to provide guidance to federal courts in handling assertions of the privilege in civil cases, to prevent the government from using the privilege to withhold evidence that is not actually sensitive.
The National Archives and Records Administration recently announced the appointment of Karl Weissenbach as the new director of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene Kansas. Mr. Weissenbach, who is currently Deputy Director, will assume his duties on April 27, 2008. He succeeds Dan Holt who is retiring after 18 years as Director of the Library.
The National Coalition for History recently joined OpenTheGovernment.org and thirty-two other groups in a letter urging the White House to allow public review and comments on new rules governing the designation of Sensitive But Unclassified (or Controlled Unclassified Information — CUI) that are expected to be released soon.
The Library of Congress and History recently announced a multimedia partnership to showcase the Library’s collections to the audience of the History brands including History, history.com and other television properties. Unlike the controversial contract in 2006 between Showtime Networks and the Smithsonian, this is a non-exclusive partnership.
The National Park Service recently announced it was filling two senior positions within the agency. Stephen E. Whitesell was appointed as Associate Director of Park Planning, Facilities, and Lands, and Ronald C. Wilson was named Chief Curator to lead the Park Museum Management Program.
The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation will meet in the Department of State, 2201 C Street, NW., Washington, DC, June 2-3, 2008, in Conference Room 1205. The Committee will meet in open session from 1:30 p.m. through 3 p.m. on Monday, June 2, 2008, to discuss declassification and transfer of Department of State records to the National Archives and Records Administration and the status of the Foreign Relations series.
On April 23, 2008, the Library of Congress announced that the minimum age for use of the Main Reading Room to access the Library’s physical collections for research purposes has been lowered to 16. The previous requirement was that researchers be above high school age.
The Library of Congress announced to its staff in mid-March that it would close the current European Reading Room (ERR) space in April and convert it into an exhibition area. This development caused an outcry in the historical community amid concerns that the ERR would be permanently closed or after a lengthy relocation delay that the facility would be moved into smaller inadequate space with a loss of research staff. On April 3, 2008, the Library of Congress announced that “contrary to recent concerns” that the European Reading room would not be closed, but relocated.
It was revealed this week that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) does not plan a “harvest” of federal agency websites as they exist at the end of President Bush’s term. Citing cost concerns, NARA will not archive these federal agency website “snapshots” as it did prior the end of presidential terms in 2001 and 2005. NARA also preserved Congressional websites at the end of 2006. The NARA memo noted that there are non-governmental websites that perform the same function.
U.S. intelligence agencies have embarked upon a process to develop a uniform classification policy and a single classification guide that could be used by the entire U.S. intelligence community, according to a newly obtained report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The story was broken by Steven Aftergood in his on-line publication Secrecy News. Because of its importance, we present his story here with full attribution.