Archive for the ‘Covert Operations Declassification Legal Issues’ Category

US judge denies release of CIA report on Bay of Pigs invasion

May 15, 2012

Court documents


c On April 17, 1961, abrigade of 1,300 CIA-funded and -trained anticommunist Cubans mounted a surprise assault on the Caribbeanisland. But prior intelligence collected by  spies working for Havana, and stiff resistance by pro-Castro troops, resulted in the CIA’s biggest known covert action failure. Approximately 1,200 surviving members of the CIA’s army were captured by pro-Castro forces, many of whom were severely interrogated or executed in subsequent years. The intelligence fiasco led to a five-volume CIA report, whose final volume was authored in the early 1980s by CIA resident historian Jack Pfeiffer. It essentially contains the CIA’s counterargument to a previous report, authored by the Agency’s Inspector General, which placed the blame for the failure on the invasion squarely on the shoulders of the CIA. Volume III of the report was voluntarily released by the CIA in 1998, but was not discovered by researchers until 2005, when an academic found it among the Kennedy Assassination Records Collection at the US National Archives. Following an unsuccessful Freedom of Information Act request, George Washington University’s National Security Archive sued the CIA in 2011, eventually forcing the Agency to declassify Volumes I, II and IV last April. This left Volume V, which is the subject of an ongoing dispute between historians and the CIA. But in a decision aired late last week, US District Court judge Gladys Kessler agreed with the Agency that the volume was not subject to US declassificiation rules because it had been “rejected for inclusion in the final publication” of the report. According to judge Kessler, the volume written by Dr. Pfeiffer, the CIA historian, was not a finished product, but rather a draft manuscript, and was therefore exempt from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. She also sided with the Agency’s argument that declassifying Volume V would discourage current historians-in-residence in the US Intelligence Community from presenting “innovative, unorthodox or unpopular interpretations” in draft manuscripts, in fear of their views being made public. The CIA expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision, but the National Security Archive blasted it as “a regrettable blow to the right-to-know”. The Archive’s Peter Kornbluh, who directs its Cuba Documentation Project, said “[t]he idea that the CIA can advance the cause of accurate historical analysis by hiding history from the peer review of the public is preposterous”. Jack Pfeiffer, the CIA historian who wrote Volume V of the report, died in 1997.

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