|Last year, the National Archives (NARA) acquired a large number of historically valuable National Security Agency records. But they remain inaccessible to researchers, at least for the time being.|
David Langbart of NARA described the situation at a closed meeting of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee late last year. According to recently published minutes of that meeting:
“The [NSA] records consist of approximately 19,000 folders without any real arrangement. These records mostly consist of technical, analytical, historical, operational, and translation reports and related materials. Most of the records date from the period from the 1940s to the 1960s, but there are also documents from the 1920s and 1930s and even earlier. The NSA reviewed the records for declassification before accessioning and most documents and folder titles remain classified. Langbart concluded that the finding aid prepared by NSA was the only practical way to locate documents of interest for researchers, but it is 557 pages long and is classified.”
The National Archives confirmed that this description remains accurate today.
So not only are these thousands of half-century-old records still classified or otherwise unavailable, but the finding aid that would enable researchers to locate specific documents of interest is itself a classified document.