The CIA Laid Off the People Who Declassify Their Secrets

J. Scott Applewhite/AP file photo

The Historical Collections Division is the office that catalogs the record of our nation's clandestine service and decides how much of it the American public gets to see -- and they all just lost their jobs because of the sequester. The Los Angeles Times reports that the mandated budget cuts have forced the CIA to disband the division and fold its duties into the same super efficient and speedy office that handles Freedom of Information Acts requests from the public.

The people who handle historical records like Cold War spy reports and Iranian coup plans are probably considered non-essential worker by an agency focused on present day threats, but the loss will put a big damper on the work of historians and other academics hoping to study the CIA's past. Unlike the Pentagon, which forced many of its employees into temporary furloughs after the government-wide sequester kicked in, the CIA mostly eliminated contractors, many of whom pore over the boxes and boxes of decades-old documents to determine what is safe to be declassified. Like the fact that CIA once overthrew the Prime Minister of Iran. We only had to wait 60 years to find out about that.

The closure doesn't mean that no more records will be ever be declassified, since a lot of the declassification is required by law to take place after a set number years. That those duties will now be handled by the FOIA office is not encouraging, however. One lawyer who often does battle with the CIA in courts told the Times that the unit "is the most obstructionist and unfriendly of those I have dealt with during the last two decades." When you're dealing with people whose job is to keep secrets, obviously giving out more information is not high on their priority list. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.