Sunday, September 13, 2009

Declassification again

We are on the right track. Finally, the
babus would have to publicly admit that they do not have a declassification policy — a matter of shame for a country like India with a rich (though troubled) history.
Once they admit the lack of policy, they will have to accept that there is no trained staff to do the job. It will be a more difficult issue to solve.

The Times of India

MEA, RAW mum over official policy on declassification

Himanshi Dhawan, TNN
13 September 2009
NEW DELHI: Taking a cue from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), both the external affairs ministry and the intelligence department Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) have refused to give information relating to the declassification policy.
MEA has declassified 121 files of 1950s and 1960s' vintage but these cannot be accessed as they have been stored in the foreign office's records management section rather than the National Archives of India. In response to an RTI query filed by Chandrachur Ghose, an activist campaigning for a comprehensive declassification policy in India, MEA has admitted that no records have been declassified in the last five years preceding 2009.
While the ministry has steered clear of answering Ghose's query on the guidelines for declassification of documents, it has said that "for declassification of files or downgradation of he security grading on files, the files are referred to the head of concerned territorial division and on their recommendation, the files are declassified or downgraded''.
In an attempt to get an overall picture of declassification in India, filed RTI applications with PMO, the defence, home and external affairs ministries.
The application to PMO and MHA also sought to know the declassification status at RAW and the Intelligence Bureau.
But RAW has declined to give any information on the plea that the organisation is exempt from disclosure unless the details sought under RTI relate to charges of corruption or human rights violation.
RAW has also cited national security in refusing information. "The information sought for is of classified nature and has security implications,'' according to RAW.
Interestingly, most intelligence agencies world over are known to make at least some records public. "The world's top intelligence agencies do release old records, specially those dealing with their operations. In the last 10 years or so, CIA has released more than 30 million pages to public,'' Anuj Dhar, author of `CIA's Eye on South Asia' said. He added that UK's MI5 is also known to make periodic disclosure of its records even though it remains beyond the purview of the British Freedom of Information law.
PMO had recently said that it was holding 28,685 classified files and not one of them had been declassified this year while the defence ministry has not declassified any records in the past few years.
The manual that governs the declassification process in the government is itself classified.

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