2 October, 2017 © 2017 – Malcolm Blunt
The CIA Historical Collections Division (HRP) for all of it’s faults was by the agency’s standards a beacon of light as far as declassification is concerned. In 2011 I was fortunate to meet CIA Review Program staffers at NARA, College Park, MD, and at the Museum of History in Raleigh, North Carolina. At these venues they were presenting packages of historical documents and one was able ask them questions one on one. Of course, I was concerned about the 2017 releases and Miss L., a senior HRP officer, told me point blank that CIA was going to appeal to the president on many documents, adding and emphasizing, “in my opinion, some of that stuff should never be released.” Miss L. felt strongly that out of all of the intelligence agencies working to comply with the ARCA, CIA had done the most in the way of releasing previously redacted documents. I have to say that to a large extent she was correct.
The Historical Collections Division is the latest casualty of sequester cuts. The office handling Freedom of Information Act requests will take over the work. — The Los Angeles Times | 21 August, 2013
In relation to the dearth of releases from ONI, DIA and NSA, CIA did a hell of a lot, and looking at CIA’s internal admin files (so called Project Files) the Historical Collections Division (HRP) was trying to work within the spirit of the ARCA. One can see they had major difficulties with other CIA components like the Directorate of Operations who were strongly against letting go of some documents.
The people I met seemed genuinely interested in declassifying more documents and recognized the historical importance of their task. In 2013 this short period of CIA openness came to an abrupt end due to Washington politicians squabbling about budget issues and threatening to shut down the government (sequestration???). At that time competing forces within CIA sensed an opportunity to neutralize this “problem child” (the HCD/HRP) by closing the division down using the excuse “for budgetary reasons.” So the one part of CIA which was actually doing a good job found itself “consolidated” within IMS (Information Management Services), the part of CIA which handles FOIA’s or should I say mishandles FOIA’s; an outfit which has successfully stonewalled many researchers over the years. So once again the agency (CIA) shoots itself in the foot; we all lost what could have developed into a much improved situation on document releases and CIA lost a real opportunity to project itself in a more positive light.