The CIA has the legal right to secure material that is legitimately classified. It is unlikely, however, that the ancient papers of these two deceased men contain any classified information. The CIA isn’t protecting national security. It is covering its proverbial rear end. By removing the Cram and Applewhite papers from public view, the agency has, in essence, redacted some of the details of an embarrassing chapter in the agency’s history. But while the records technically remain in the hands of Georgetown and off-limits to FOIA, the CIA kept this harmless material beyond the reach of law and the eyes of reporters and historians.
Policy and ethics aside, I’m impressed. My attempt to write a more comprehensive history of Angleton’s mole hunt has been limited. My plans to quote Cram and Applewhite on Angleton’s legacy have been called into question. My chapter describing the human toll (and the taxpayer’s bill) for the mole hunt will have to be revised. As I write the story of one of the CIA’s most notorious characters, the agency is redacting my book, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. That’s how the CIA writes history.