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CIA director pledges faster declassification, more public access to materials

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  1. Freedom of Information
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- CIA Director James Woolsey, speaking to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in late September, pledged…

WASHINGTON, D.C. — CIA Director James Woolsey, speaking to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in late September, pledged broad efforts to speed declassification and to increase public accessibility to CIA work.

When information no longer needs protection, he said, citizens are owed hard disclosure of as much information as is possible, “warts and all.”

He said he intends to release next year the first unclassified history of the CIA and promised “more will come.”

“To me and my colleagues, greater accessibility does not end with an accounting of the past, it encompasses how we will act in the future,” he said. Woolsey promised that the agency will speak out publicly and strengthen its ties to academic institutions and scholars.

He said the agency will undertake “block review” to declassify records of special historical value more than 30 years old, doing away with line-by-line review. These records include thousands of analytical papers addressing major events in the Cold War, the Greek-Turkish crisis of 1937, the Korean War and deepening involvement in Vietnam during the 1960s, he said.

He also directed declassification review of significant Cold War covert actions more than 30 years old, including operations in France and Italy in the 1940s and 1950s; support to anti-Sukarno rebels in Indonesia in 1958; Support to Tibetan guerillas in the 1950s and 1960s; operations against North Korea during the Korean War; and operations in Laos in the 1960s.

Efforts by former director Robert Gates will continue, he said, toward declassification of records on the Bay of Pigs, coups in Guatemala and in Iran, and operations in the Dominican Republic and the Congo.

Woolsey said the initiatives are driven by considerations of the President’s goal of changing the way intelligence information is handled and by the need to help scholars and researchers understand recent history as completely as possible, and, more importantly, by the relationship of openness to democratic government.

The director told the committee that he and Defense Secretary Les Aspin have formed a joint commission to examine security practices and procedures, including classification rules, within the entire intelligence community and Department of Defense.