- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday said he would
push for passage of legislation this year aimed at reducing the burden
on CIA declassifiers overwhelmed by numerous special requests from government
- Those special requests from administration officials
and members of Congress have asked CIA declassifiers to search for documents
on everything from UFOs to murdered churchwomen in El Salvador to the assassination
of President John F. Kennedy.
- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, a
Florida Republican, and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat,
have sponsored legislation to create a nine-member board to prioritize
such special requests.
- "The purpose of the bill is to bring some order
to the chaos," Goss said at a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee
hearing on the legislation. He said he would seek passage of the legislation
- "It's a push and shove, it's who has the sharper
elbows," Goss said. Right now, a special request for a search of documents
by the person with the most political clout is likely to be put on top
of the pile, he added.
- STREAMLINE RESPONSES
- Such requests at times end up resulting in duplicative
work for the CIA declassifiers because they are made by different people
at different times, Goss and Moynihan said. The proposed board would aim
to reduce repetitive requests and streamline agency responses.
- The CIA's 230 to 300 employees at its "declassification
factory" are stretched by the sheer amount of records they must review,
Moynihan said. The spy agency has in the past said it processes about 8
million pages of classified records a year.
- Aside from the special requests, the declassification
efforts include a presidential executive order requiring information older
than 25 years be declassified unless the government decides it needs to
- Also the public requests declassification of documents
under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act.
- The CIA budget for declassification efforts itself is
- Included with Moynihan's testimony was a letter from
CIA's director of congressional affairs, John Moseman, on the impact of
special searches and a list detailing the types of searches that have been
- The list and letter, dated Oct. 18, 1999, were declassified
last Friday, July 21. "In sum, special searches are a growth industry
and compete with the mandates of the many existing information review and
release programs," Moseman said.
- SEARCH FOR UFOS AND
- From 1993 to September 1999, the CIA conducted nine separate
special searches for documents on El Salvador, mainly related to four churchwomen
murdered there in 1980. There were 12 on Guatemala related to the deaths
of several Americans and for records on the 1954 CIA-backed coup, the list
- CIA Director George Tenet requested a search for documents
related to convicted spy Jonathan Pollard on the damage done to national
security by his espionage activities.
- The request was made in late 1998 when President Clinton,
during the Wye River Middle East peace conference, said he would review
the case of Pollard, a former naval intelligence official jailed for life
in 1986 for selling military secrets to Israel.
- Israel has been seeking Pollard's release, reportedly
as recently as the just-ended Camp David summit that collapsed. Tenet has
opposed releasing the spy.
- Other special searches were done in response to congressional
requests for documents on parapsychology studies, and satellite imagery
on the presence of Noah's Ark, on which after spending 1,000 hours the
CIA concluded "no definitive information identified."
- A CIA director also requested information on UFO sightings
and Roswell, New Mexico, a subject on which more than 2,700 pages have
been released, according to the list.
- Several items for which special search requests had been
made were blacked out on the list.
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