The Air Force has abandoned an attempt to reclassify 30-year-old records concerning U. S. and Israeli intelligence activities and agreed to their release.
A 47-page packet of the documents had been obtained by an author-researcher from the National Archives last December but then was retrieved by an archives official under false pretenses.
The documents in question include details of a secret spying mission over northern Israel and Cyprus in 1953 by the U. S. air attache assigned to Tel Aviv.
The plane he was flying, an Air Force C47, was sabotaged and burned to the floor level at Lod Airport outside Tel Aviv a few hours after its return.
The researcher, Stephen Green of Montpelier, Vt., said the Air Force had snipped out segments of the documents in question, which are the records of that incident, showing that the plane's mission included the surreptitious photographing of two airfields in Cyprus and proscribed sections of northern Israel, under two code-numbered assignments.
Despite the sabotage of the plane, the remains of the cameras were found in the wreckage and "secretly removed" by U. S. officials after the fire was extinguished.
Green said, however, that the records, which have now been returned in full, do not contain any suggestion bearing out his suspicion that Israeli authorities blew up the plane.
Other documents that the Air Force at first tried to reclassify in their entirety, Green said, dealt with 1950-51 reports on Israeli air force and naval strength.
He said the reports put Israeli forces at much stronger levels than the Israelis admitted at the time in seeking military aid from the United States.
"The figures on Israeli strength are pretty surprising," Green said.
"Basically what these and other records I've obtained show is that the U. S. just never accepted Israeli claims that the new state was in danger unless they received arms."
Green, who is writing a history of the hidden tensions and adversary relationships between the United States and Israel, was assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union in retrieving the censored and withheld portions of the 47 pages he returned in February.
The head of the archives' records declassification division, Edwin A. Thompson, told Green he wanted the papers back temporarily for record-keeping purposes.
Actually, the Air Force had demanded their retrieval after Green had submitted a follow-up Freedom of Information Act request to the Air Force for more details.
The director of the executive branch's Information Security Oversight Office, Steven Garfinkel, apparently played a key role in securing the release of the papers.
He had no comment except to say that "once it reached the appropriate levels in the Air Force, they acted very quickly."