The Last NSAM Standing (fwd)

J.A. Terranson measl at
Fri Apr 22 20:36:19 PDT 2011

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2011 13:39:25 -0400
From: National Security Archive <archive at GWU.EDU>
Subject: The Last NSAM Standing

National Security Archive Update, April 21, 2011


Deconstructing a Secrecy Blunder:
A Study in Dysfunction

For more information contact:
John Prados - 202/994-7000

Washington, D.C., April 21, 2011 - The last remaining secret national 
security directive from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, a 
National Security Action Memorandum on Laos, has finally been 
declassified, nearly fifty years after it was first issued, and was posted 
today on the Web site of the National Security Archive.

Today's posting is a case study of sorts--a selection of documents which 
are analyzed not so much for their historical value as for what the 
materials show about operation of the declassification system. This 
inquiry has its origins in a quest by Archive senior fellow Jeffrey T. 
Richelson to obtain the declassification of presidential national security 
directives issued since President Harry S. Truman. During the Kennedy and 
Johnson administrations, the highest level directives that flowed from the 
White House were called National Security Action Memoranda (NSAMs). 
President John F. Kennedy issued 173 NSAMs during his time in office. 
Reaching the point where only NSAM-29, on Laos, dated March 9, 1961, 
remained secret, Richelson finally obtained the declassification of this 
directive on October 29, 2010, almost fifty years after it was issued.

As the "last NSAM standing," NSAM 29 received significant attention inside 
the National Security Archive. But to the present author, the Archive's 
project director on Vietnam war records, it immediately seemed familiar. A 
search for related records produced a number of other items (also posted 
today) which provide the context for discussion of NSAM-29's release. More 
importantly, however, the search disclosed that the document, far from 
being the last NSAM standing, was already in the public domain, in 
multiple versions, some more than a decade old. Given present 
controversies over secrecy in America, the case of the last NSAM 
illuminates the enormous problems that are endemic in the declassification 

Continue reading at the National Security Archive's Web site:


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