Arts Desk

Former Archives Employee Pleads Guilty to Stealing Recordings

Today, retired National Archives manager Leslie Waffen pleaded guilty to stealing artifacts from the National Archives and selling them online. Waffen, who worked at the Archives for more than 40 years, was charged with pilfering hundreds of original recordings from the Archives' Motion Picture, Sound, and Video unit, which he managed. He was the subject of a memo sent by U.S. Archivist David S. Ferriero this morning:

While I am pleased that we are one step closer to justice in this case, I am disappointed and angered by Mr. Waffen’s violation of the trust placed in him by colleagues and the American people to safeguard our nation’s history. It is an outrage that an employee entrusted with protecting our heritage became a threat to those holdings.

Waffen's Rockville home was raided last fall, not long after a government audit revealed that the Archives was vulnerable to major security breaches. U.S. Marshals and agents from the National Archives Office of Inspector General confiscated nearly 1000 items from Waffen's basement. The retired archivist admitted to stealing the artifacts, which included a 1937 sound recording of Babe Ruth.

Ferriero's memo addresses the Archives' efforts to improve security:

Our Holdings Protection Team has been working closely with archival units to improve training techniques, institute new policies and procedures, and purchase new equipment to ensure that our holdings are safer. We have heightened security in our facilities nationwide and continue to strive towards creating a culture of increased vigilance among our staff. New procedures include exit screenings, in which security officers check all bags of visitors and staff alike—including mine—at both our Washington, D.C., and College Park, Maryland, facilities.  This routine practice will soon be extended to all 44 of our facilities nationwide.

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