IWG Presents Final Report to Congress on the Largest Single-Subject Declassification Effort in U.S. History
Press Release · Wednesday, Mar 5, 2014
Program to Declassify Records of Nazi and Japanese War Crimes Detailed
- National Archives Public Affairs Staff 202-357-5300
- Final Report (7.04 MB)
Washington, DC…The Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (IWG), formed under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998 and the Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act of 2000, today issued its final report to Congress describing the seven-year, approximately $30-million government-wide effort to locate, declassify, and make publicly available U.S. records of Nazi and Japanese war crimes.
In a Capitol Hill ceremony, the Archivist of the United States, Allen Weinstein,
presented the final report on behalf of the IWG, entitled Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group: Final Report to Congress, to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, one of the
authors of the 1998 enabling legislation.
“This report,” Weinstein said, “represents an enormous contribution to scholarship relating to both Japanese and Nazi War Crimes. Without support from the Congress, the cooperation of the various Federal agencies, and the dogged determination of the public members, this effort would not have been successfully completed.”
"I am proud to have authored the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act with former Congressman Horn and with former Senator DeWine. It was an historic achievement, paving the way for one of the biggest declassification efforts in our nation's history," said Rep. Maloney. "While it was no doubt difficult, our government did the right thing by revealing essential information about its involvement with Nazis after World War II. I am grateful to the members of the IWG – particularly Richard Ben-Veniste, Tom Baer and Elizabeth Holtzman - and Archivist Allen Weinstein for their service in assembling this information."
The IWG's membership consists of representatives of seven Executive Branch agencies and three presidentially-appointed public members, Thomas H. Baer, Richard Ben-Veniste, and Elizabeth Holtzman. The Archivist of the United States is designated by statute as the group’s Chair.
More than eight million pages were declassified and opened to the public as a result of the Disclosure Acts. Notably, the records include the entirety of the operational files of the Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor agency of the CIA), and more than 163,000 pages of CIA materials of a type never before opened to the public.
The declassified records also included more than:
- 435,000 pages of FBI files
- 20,000 pages from Army Counterintelligence Corps files
- 100,000 pages related to Japanese War Crimes; and
- 6 million additional pages of records.
One of the IWG’s aims was to uncover documentation that would shed light on the extent to which the U.S. Government had knowingly used and protected war criminals for intelligence purposes. Findings on this subject were explored in two volumes produced by the IWG: Researching Japanese War Crimes: Introductory Essays (January 2007) and U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis (April 2004) .
In the Congressional report, IWG public member Elizabeth Holtzman wrote, “It is not clear that Nazis provided us with any useful intelligence, and we know that in some cases at least they were a serious detriment to us. Given the intelligence failures of the Iraq war, it might be important for U.S. policymakers to understand that using very bad people for intelligence activities does not automatically get us very good results and, instead, may get us very bad results. In any case, it is important to consider the moral consequences of using Nazi war criminals as well.”
“The documents found and released include many important, and sometimes disturbing, materials,” wrote Eli Rosenbaum, IWG Member and Director of the Office of Special Investigations at the Department of Justice. “As the present report indicates, while these materials do not compel any dramatic revision of mainstream scholarship on the war and its aftermath, they do enhance our understanding of those events and add some hitherto unreported events to the chronology.”
The IWG report outlined several recommendations for declassification policies and highlighted the inefficiencies of subject-specific search and declassification efforts.
Public Member Thomas H. Baer said, “I am grateful to all who served so ably to successfully complete this enormous job.”
Former IWG Chair and past Director of Information Security Oversight Office Director, Steven Garfinkel, wrote that one of the IWG’s most significant legacies may be demonstrating “that disaster does not befall America when intelligence agencies declassify old intelligence operations records.”
Public Member Richard Ben-Veniste commented that “there is far too much secrecy in government. Secrecy often acts as the handmaiden of complacency, arrogance, and incompetence … In a democratic society, openness should be the rule; the right to know should trump the impulse to withhold, except in truly justifiable circumstances.”
For a copy of the report, Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group: Final Report to Congress, or additional information about the IWG, visit the IWG web site.
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