Consequences of Lost and Stolen Documents
Most American citizens return U.S. government documents (federal, congressional, and presidential records) to the National Archives once they realize that the historical documents are lost or stolen. Most citizens realize that democratic societies require a clear record of government actions and decisions for accountability purposes and to ensure that citizen rights and equities are preserved.
When identified historical U.S. government documents are not returned willingly, the National Archives has the legal authority to retrieve them in court through a legal action called replevin. NARA works with the Department of Justice, including the FBI, in pursuing these cases.
Unfortunately, dealers, repositories, and individuals who have bought, traded, or otherwise acquired alienated U.S. government historical documents may lose the financial investment they have made in acquiring these documents when the documents are returned to the National Archives through this process. In appropriate situations, NARA may assist such individuals in seeking monetary refunds from cooperating entities outside of NARA. Furthermore, when appropriate, NARA officials may be available to assist such individuals who pursue legal action against third parties.
If you would like to help NARA look for missing historical U.S. government documents, please contact the National Archives.