National Security Archive Director to Discuss WikiLeaks, Government Classification

Intellectual Freedom Committee, Intellectual Freedom Issues, Midwinter Meeting/Annual Conference

Every day leading to the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, the OIF Blog will be featuring a special program, event, or opportunity awaiting attendees. Today we feature:

Intellectual Freedom Committee/Committee on Legislation Program

When it Leaks it Pours: WikiLeaks, National Declassification System, and Access to Government Information

Monday, June 27, 10:30 a.m. – Noon

Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom

On Monday, June 27, Thomas Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University in Washington D.C., will discuss the state of the United States’ classification system and explore librarians’ role as defenders of access to information. The program, When it Leaks it Pours: WikiLeaks, National Declassification System, and Access to Government Information will take place at 10:30 am in the Queen Anne Ballroom at the Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal Street, New Orleans.   The program is jointly sponsored by the Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Committee on Legislation.

Last November, WikiLeaks and several major global newspapers (including The New York Times), began publishing 220 of over 250,000 leaked “confidential” classified diplomatic cables (1966-2010) from 274 U.S. embassies around the world.  While not classified “top secret,” these cables revealed diplomatic strategies and some potentially embarrassing attitudes and opinions of international leaders.   Over six months later, the disclosures are still headline news, and the principals involved in the disclosures — notably Julian Assange and Bradley Manning — remain persons of interest for the media and the government.

For the library community, the WikiLeaks disclosure raises issues that have long concerned librarians as information professionals: the classification (and overclassification) of government information;  the role of whistleblowers and their protection under the law; government transparency; and the protection of the public’s right to access and read government documents and understand what the government is doing in its name.

Blanton will continue the conversation begun at the ALA’s Midwinter Meeting when ALA Council passed a resolution to mark ALA’s support for expanded initiatives to reform the U.S. classification system and reaffirm the right of libraries, the press, and individuals to disseminate information to the public about the government and national security issues without restriction.

Blanton, the 1996 winner of the ALA James Madison Award for defending the public’s right to know, is a renowned journalist and author whose Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit led to the release of Oliver North’s Iran-contra diaries.  He is a lead editor for  Masterpieces of History: The Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe, 1989, and is a contributor to  several other books, including Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws, and Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940.  As Director of the National Security Archive, he heads up the world’s largest nongovernmental library of declassified government documents.