1 Reply Latest reply on May 12, 2020 10:31 AM by Jason Atkinson

    Seeking 1930s NARA protocol for declassification

    Ryan Noyes Wayfarer

      Hi, I'm working with images I took with a smartphone from the contents of a folder housed in RG 117.  Unfortunately, certain documents referenced within it, are missing.  In other words, there are well over 100 pages in a folder, a dozen or so of which reference documents that *should* be in this folder as well, but are now.  These missing documents/pages are nevertheless the same documents that I immediately self-identify as being worthy of classification for national security and other reasons at the time (1930s)--which seems to explain why all of these pages, are missing.


      I'm on a quest for finding these missing pages and presume one of these two scenarios to be true:

      1. the agency of origin intentionally failed to include these documents with whatever it sent to NARA--perhaps by breaking official protocol/policy
      2. NARA did receive all documents, including those that I see are missing, but removed the sensitive pages from the rest of the document set, and classified them.


      My hunch is that #2 happened, but I have no evidence this was the case.  Question: did NARA have a protocol at the time for dealing with situations like this, perhaps by inserting a boilerplate card or memo in the folder, to inform future researchers that certain pages have been removed and classified? If the answer is "yes," then let's presume human error occurred and somehow this never happened. 


      In this scenario, Question-2: can your folks help researchers identify probable boxes/folders in classified section (that the missing pages might be in)---or better yet, actually do a pull and validate where these pages are? If whomever responds to this is willing to do one quick final favor; I'd be grateful: URLs for whatever researchers need to do, in advance, to see presently-classified material which we are highly confident could be de-classified, today.   (Also, it's possible NARA removed these and placed them in a non-classified group; one that could be accessed via a FOIA request). Many thanks in advance for answering these questions!  Your answer might save them from emailing you in the future.

        • Re: Seeking 1930s NARA protocol for declassification
          Jason Atkinson Ranger

          Dear Mr. Noyes,


          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!

          There are no currently classified documents in the Records of the American Battle Monuments Commission (Record Group 117) in National Archives custody. The vast majority of RG 117 documents were unclassified when they were accessioned to the National Archives, and the Decimal Subject Files, 1923 - 1967 which previously included some classified material have been declassified in full.


          It is not unusual for documents to reference other documents which were filed separately by the originating agency.  Please email the custodial unit for the records series you were using for assistance. Be sure to include full details, including any information you have about the record series, box numbers, etc. Contact information for the various custodial units with RG 117 records is listed here:  https://catalog.archives.gov/id/446 


          Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from NARA. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.


          Although none of the RG 117 records are currently classified, for your general information: The National Archives did not start declassification projects until the 1970s. Most records reviewed in the early years of declassification by the National Archives dated from the 1940s and earlier.  It has always been our practice to include a withdrawal sheet when classified documents were segregated from declassified records. The exact form of these sheets and the types of information included on them has changed over the years. Classified documents must be requested under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request or a Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) request. For more information, see our FOIA Reference Guide and our page on Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR).


          We hope this information is helpful.


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