NY court limits disclosure in old communist probe

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New York's top court on Tuesday ordered the release of more names and records to a writer whose parents were targeted by anti-communist investigators in the New York City school system 57 years ago.

The Court of Appeals, however, is still excluding informants who were promised confidentiality. The seven judges unanimously said history may at some point overtake those promises and more completely peel back the veil of secrecy from that chapter in America's Red Scare.

"The story of the Anti-Communist Investigations, like any other that is a significant part of our past, should be told as fully and as accurately as possible, and historians are better equipped to do so when they can work from uncensored records," Judge Robert Smith wrote. "Perhaps there will be a time when the promise made ... is so ancient that its enforcement would be pointless, but that time is not yet."

Lisa Harbatkin's parents were among more than 1,100 teachers investigated from the 1930s to the 1960s. She has seen interview transcripts with names and personal information blacked out and is seeking complete documents under New York's Freedom of Information Law.

City officials opposed complete disclosure for privacy reasons, offering redacted documents unless those in question or their legal heirs agreed to disclosure. As an alternative, they offered Harbatkin complete accounts if she agreed not to publish the names, a condition she rejected.


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