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CIA declassified three million pages in 1999

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON, Oct 5 (Reuters) - The CIA has shipped three million pages of declassified records to the National Archives -- which will make them public -- including documents on the Vietnam War, Cuba, China and Taiwan and photographs of the Soviet Union, the intelligence agency said on Tuesday.

The number of pages declassified was triple the one million sent to the National Archives last year under President Clinton's executive order requiring government agencies to review for possible declassification all historically valuable records that are 25 years old or older, the CIA said.

"During the last week of September, 2,000 boxes containing the three million pages of releasable documents...were transferred in three tractor-trailer trucks'' to the National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland, the CIA said in a statement.

The documents will be made available to the public after the Archives finishes processing and cataloguing them.

"CIA's 1999 review included substantial collections of foreign document translations and original negatives from CIA's holdings of worldwide ground photography,'' the agency said. Also included were intelligence reports, memos and reports from CIA operatives.

Separately, efforts are underway in Congress to change the process for handling special requests from Congress or the White House for declassification of national security records.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, a Florida Republican, and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat, have teamed up on legislation that would create a board to handle special declassification requests and order reviews of documents considered historically significant.

The legislation was expected to be introduced in Congress this month, congressional staffers said.

"As a former (CIA) case officer, I am aware of some of the extraordinary stories in the files at Langley,'' Goss said in a statement. "I would like to see more of this history available to the American public.''

The board would have nine members appointed by the president, and could include archivists, historians, international lawyers and national security experts. Goss has said he hopes Moynihan, who is leaving the Senate after next year, would chair it.

The board would look at special requests from members of Congress or the White House for declassification of documents related to a particular issue and determine whether there had been similar previous requests or a new review should be conducted, congressional staffers said. The aim is to cut down the expense and time spent in handling redundant requests, the staffers said.

The legislation would also allow the new board to order an agency to review for declassification documents considered of permanent historical value to the public.

"This is a democracy, this is our history and people have a right to know it,'' one staffer said.

Steven Aftergood, director of a Federation of American Scientists project on government secrecy, said the legislation was "not ambitious enough'' because the board would not be able to declassify anything on its own, leaving the agencies with the final say over what could be declassified.

20:40 10-05-99

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

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