Thursday, September 22, 2005
Federal officials are investigating how National Archives documents of interest to Indians suing the Interior Department were found discarded in a trash bin and a wastebasket. The discovery came to light on Sept. 1, when Archives staff noticed federal records in one of the trash bins behind the National Archives Building near the Capitol. They notified the Archives' inspector general, Paul Brachfeld, whose staff recovered the documents. They found at least a portion of the documents were Bureau of Indian Affairs records dating to the 1950s, according to Jason Baron of the Archives' Office of General Counsel, in a letter last week to an Interior Department official. Brachfeld's office began investigating, and "what appear to be Indian records were discovered in a waste basket in the stack areas at Main Archives," Baron wrote. Taken together, the two dumping incidents "may be intentional acts aimed at unlawfully removing or disposing of permanent records from the Interior Department," he wrote.This report raises a few questions: Will we see the same outrage over this attempt to destroy government records that we saw over Sandy Berger's possibly unintentional removal of copies of records? Have they found John Roberts' records that went missing from the Ronald Reagan Library (which is under the jurisdiction of the National Archives) when the Democrats requested them? Is it significant that the current Archivist of the United States, Allen Weinstein, was appointed by George W. Bush? Is anybody surprised that Mr. Weinstein was previously president of a think tank that received funding from the ultra-rightwing Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Society of American Archivists and American Historical Association expressed strong reservations about his nomination? (And that there are clues that the previous Archivist was pushed out of the job?) Has Albert Lloyd been seen loitering in the Archives?
These are old. old records. Sort of exactly the kinds of things Archives like best and are least likely to toss.
One guess is that funds were being siphoned off to run intelligence operations.
Maybe it began as simple embezzlement, back 125 years ago, or more. And maybe it lasted for a long time because official government policy was to wipe out the American Indian. Right up until FDR, really, and even then, it took many years to percolate through.
But catching corruption is why we change the government every so often. The ability of this embezzlement to continue through Administration after Administration suggests that it had a high level patron. In 1932, which is when things started to change, there was no CIA. But increasingly through the 1930s, there was a reason to create a slush fund to fund covert activities.
It's just a hunch, nothing solid. But I can't imagine why people would be trying at this late date to conceal records.
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