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NARA intern sold documents on eBay.

In April, a National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) intern pleaded guilty to one federal count of stealing government property. Federal prosecutors said he stole 164 valuable historical documents and put about 150 of them up for sale on online auction site eBay.

Denning McTague, who runs a website that sells rare books, stole a treasure trove of priceless documents, including the War Department's announcement of President Lincoln's death, a letter from Civil War-era cavalryman James Ewell Brown Stuart, and telegrams about troops' weaponry.


U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan told Newsweek the stolen documents "are valued well into the tens of thousands" of dollars and said they were "of incalculable value to historians."

McTague's crime was discovered when a book company spotted the items on the Internet last fall and contacted NARA authorities. FBI agents and NARA archivists found 80 original Civil War-era documents from the archives in McTague's apartment, but another 80 had already been auctioned on eBay. McTague, a scholar with master's degrees in history and library science and an avid collector of historical artifacts, organized documents for the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Civil War while at NARA. According to media reports, about half the documents McTague posted online had been shipped to buyers; all but three were recovered. As an unpaid intern at the NARA Philadelphia branch in 2006, McTague admitted to pilfering the documents by hiding them between the pages of a yellow notepad and simply walking out with them in his backpack at the end of the day. Because he was a staff member, he was not searched when he left each day. At his July 12 court date, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined as much as $250,000.

According to Newsweek, the National Archives in Philadelphia usually employs five interns at any given time, but that number is now being reduced to two, and interns will no longer have unsupervised access to original documents. An internal investigation is ongoing.

McTague's wasn't the first case of theft at the National Archives during the past five years. In 2003, former national-security adviser Sandy Berger admitted taking highly classified documents from the National Archives and intentionally destroying some of them. In that case, too, outsiders notified NARA before it discovered the theft.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Association of Records Managers & Administrators (ARMA)
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Title Annotation:UP FRONT: News, Trends & Analysis
Author:Swartz, Nikki
Publication:Information Management Journal
Date:Jul 1, 2007
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