On January 31, 2008, a petition was filed in federal court in New York City seeking the release of grand jury records from the 1951 indictment of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were accused of running an espionage ring that passed American atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, convicted of spying, and executed in 1953. The petitioners include five members of the National Coalition for History, the National Security Archive at George Washington University, the American Historical Association, the American Society for Legal History, the Organization of American Historians, the Society of American Archivists, and New York Times reporter Sam Roberts.
The National Humanities Alliance’s 2008 Conference and Humanities Advocacy Day will take place March 3-4, 2008, at The George Washington University and on Capitol Hill. This is a unique two-day event for those interested in humanities policy and advocacy. February 1, 2008 is the registration deadline, so click here to register!
Recently, Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced 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, and to prevent the government from using the privilege to withhold evidence that is not actually sensitive in nature.
The Task Force on Smithsonian Business Ventures issued its report this week which called for retaining the business operation as a centralized, distinct organization within the Smithsonian, but more closely aligning its functions with the mission of the Institution. The report also recommended that SBV increase transparency in its business operations.
The publication Secrecy News has reported that President Bush this week ordered executive branch agency heads to respond to dozens of recommendations that were issued earlier this month by the Public Interest Declassification Board, an official advisory group, regarding the declassification of historical records.
The National Coalition for History, OpenTheGovernment.org and other organizations have met with staff for members of Congress on the Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents to urge the revision of Directive 807, a recently-adopted policy that would, among other things, broaden the Smithsonian’s ability to withhold certain business and financial information from the public.
On January 31, 2008, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum announced a gift of $15 million from D. Travis and Anne Engen. This gift will be used for phase two of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center to build the “Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar” and create an endowed fund to support future renovation of the facility.
The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT), the nation’s largest nonprofit battlefield preservation group, recently announced its land preservation accomplishments for 2007. The organization permanently protected 1,616 acres at 12 different Civil War battlefields in five states. In 2007, CWPT reached an historic milestone of 25,000 acres saved during two decades of preservation work. Overall, CWPT has protected 25,289 acres of battlefield land at 99 sites in 18 states.
The Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation will meet in open session from 1:30 p.m. through 3 p.m. on Monday, February 25, 2008, in the Department of State, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, DC, in Conference Room 1205, 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 January 22, 2008, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) brought the “Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007” (H.R. 1255, S. 886) to the floor under the Senate’s unanimous consent rule that allows non-controversial bills to be considered on an expedited basis. However, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) became the latest Republican senator to publicly put a hold on the bill and blocked floor consideration.