National Archives News

Argentine Declassification Project Reviewed at William & Mary

By James Worsham | National Archives News

WASHINGTON, November 20, 2019 — Students at the College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg, VA, recently got a firsthand briefing on the National Archives’ work in declassifying tens of thousands of pages of records documenting human rights abuses in Argentina.

John Powers, associate director for classification management at the National Archives and Records Administration’s Information Security Oversight Office, conducted the presentations October 18 and 21 at the college’s Global Research Institute and the Center for International Studies.

Powers was the project leader in the U.S. Government’s recent undertaking of declassifying approximately 50,000 pages of documents. Sixteen government agencies, including the National Archives, participated in the three-year project that concluded in April with a ceremony at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero presented the Argentine Minister of Justice with electronic copies of the declassified documents, providing Argentines with information about human rights abuses occurring in Argentina between 1975 and 1984.

Powers spoke to some 80 students and used the U.S. Declassification Project for Argentina as a case study for policy development and implementation and how being an archivist played an important part of the project’s success.

He also attended an interdisciplinary class where students are working with the National Security Archive to create metadata and translate all the declassified documents into Spanish.

A few days later, Powers joined Carlos Osorio, a senior researcher at the National Security Archive, for a public lecture to more than 100 students and faculty from across the college. Their presentation, “Declassification Diplomacy: Insider Perspectives,” focused on the contents of the declassified documents and how they led to improved bilateral relations between the United States and Argentina. During the question-and-answer period, students were most interested in how historical documents relate to current events and how they are used to inform current policy deliberations.

Powers has a long history with William & Mary. After graduating in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and government, he served two terms on the Swem Library Board of Directors. He also spoke several times to students about his work as an archivist on the Nixon Presidential Materials Staff, where he processed the Nixon tapes for public access.

As part of the Washington, DC, study program, he also mentors students interested in careers in information sciences and management or national security policy and serves as a “judge” evaluating student projects.