The National Archives recently decided to remove from circulation a tampered Presidential pardon signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1864. The document gained notoriety when it was discovered that amateur Lincoln historian Thomas Lowry had altered the date on the document from 1864 to 1865 using a smuggled-in fountain pen, making the document appear as one of Lincoln’s final acts and Lowry appear to be a legitimate historian in discovering it. To avoid theft or further damage, the document will now be relegated to a vault within the Archives.
Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah has introduced a bill that would make Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac susceptible to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act so-long as the beleaguered mortgage companies remain under federal conservatorship .
The Russian Supreme Court denied an appeal by a human rights organization for access to historical records pertaining to the 1940 massacre of an estimated 22,000 Polish officers by the Soviet NKVD. No legal justification was given for the rejection of the appeal.
The Project on Government Oversight has obtained email exchange documentation that raises concerns regarding the Obama administration’s distortion or misuse of scientific estimates regarding the size of the BP oil spill. According to POGO’s website, “that White House pushed the agencies to precisely quantify the spill as 4.9 million barrels, even though scientists thought an estimate of 3-5 million barrels was more accurate.” In a letter to President Obama, POGO President claimed, “It’s extremely troubling that the White House may have suppressed sound scientific recommendations in order to massage its message to the public.”
The New York Times has a piece on the New York Civil Liberties Union, which won a legal battle over photographers’ rights to take pictures of the exterior of Federal Buildings. Following the legal battle, the Department of Homeland Security issued this “Information Bulletin” which provides instructions to local police departments regarding photographers rights.
Jim Sanborn, sculptor of the Kryptos statue on the grounds of the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters, has released an additional clue as to the meaning of the elusive fourth passage encoded on the statue. Apparently, Mr. Saborn felt bad that “There are people out there who have come close to wrecking their lives and careers as a result of their obsession with this.”
Secrecy News has a nice summary of the National Declassification Center’s 2010 Report. In all, the NDC has declassified 12, 017,075 pages of documents in 2010 out of a total 83 million pages reviewed. The report also suggests that the NDC is, at long last, considering the “declassification and release of material associated with the Pentagon Papers,” which still remain classified despite wide publication.
Bill Keller, Executive Editor of The New York Times, wrote a detailed piece on the paper’s dealings with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The article seeks to distance the Times from a personal association with Assange’s methods and political aims, claiming “the relationship with sources is straightforward: you don’t necessarily endorse their agenda, echo their rhetoric, take anything they say at face value, applaud their methods or, most important, allow them to shape or censor your journalism.” Arguing for sanity amidst the “overblown” Wikimania, Keller says, “while I do not regard Assange as a partner, and I would hesitate to describe what WikiLeaks does as journalism, it is chilling to contemplate the possible government prosecution of WikiLeaks for making secrets public, let alone the passage of new laws to punish the dissemination of classified information, as some have advocated. Taking legal recourse against a government official who violates his trust by divulging secrets he is sworn to protect is one thing. But criminalizing the publication of such secrets by someone who has no official obligation seems to me to run up against the First Amendment and the best traditions of this country.”