Sunday, June 19, 2011

Activists seek classified Bay of Pigs report

Sign in Cuba recalls Fidel Castro's victory at Bay of Pigs
For nearly six years, researchers have been trying to force the CIA to release its secret history of the failed Bay of Pigs operation.
Now, finally, the CIA may be poised to release a “substantial” amount of the documents, court records show.
The National Security Archive, a non-profit research institute in Washington, D.C., sued the CIA in April over its refusal to release a report entitled, “Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation.” (Download six-page complaint).
Former CIA Chief Historian Jack B. Pfeiffer wrote the five-volume report over nine years, from 1974 to 1983. The Archive said:
It is based on dozens of interviews with key operatives and officials and a review of hundreds of CIA documents. …It is, by definition, the most important and substantive CIA-produced study of this episode.
On June 13, the CIA asked for 60 days to further review the documents and discuss “a possible resolution to this case.”
U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington, D.C., granted the extension on June 14.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitchell P. Zeff, who represents the CIA, wrote that the agency “expects to complete its review” of the documents “in the next four to six weeks” and has “an eye toward making a substantial release” of documents.

The Archive accuses the CIA of violating the federal Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, and says the records should be released under President Obama’s Executive Order 13526, which says “no information may remain classified indefinitely.”
The Archive filed its lawsuit a half century after the Bay of Pigs operation. Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project, said:
Fifty years after the invasion, it is well past time for the official history to be declassified and studied for the lessons it contains for the future of U.S.-Cuban relations.
President Dwight Eisenhower authorized the Bay of Pigs operation on March 17, 1960. It began as a $4.4 million paramilitary training, infiltration and assault program. The goal, the Archive said, was to replace Fidel Castro’s government “with one more devoted to the true interests of the Cuban people and more acceptable to the U.S. in such a manner as to avoid any appearance of U.S. intervention.”
According to the Archive lawsuit:
Over the course of a year of preparation, the plan evolved into a full-scale paramilitary assault of some 1,500 Cuban exiles, trained in CIA camps in Guatemala, and organized into a force called the 2506 Brigade. Between March 11, 1961, when CIA officials presented President Kennedy the invasion plan, and April 14, 1961, when he gave them the green light for a preliminary airstrike intended to destroy the Cuban airforce, Kennedy modified its parameters to make it “less noisy” and more covert. The actual deployment of Brigade 2506 began on April 17, 1961.
Within 72 hours, Castro’s air force had sunk the ammunition and food resupply ship, and the Cuban army and militia had captured most of the brigade force.
On August 8, 1973, William Colby, then director of the CIA, ordered agency historians to “develop accurate accounts of certain of CIA’s past activities…”
Pfeiffer took charge of compiling the Bay of Pigs history. His study, the Archive lawsuit said is divided into five volumes:
  • Vol. 1, Air Operations
  • Vol. II, Participation in the Conduct of Foreign Policy
  • Vol. III, Evolution of CIA’s Anti-Castro Policies, 1951-January 1961
  • Vol. IV, Taylor Committee Report
  • Vol. V, Internal Investigation Report
The CIA declassified Vol. III under the Kennedy Assassination Records Act. The rest of the report is “now the last and only major internal study that remains secret – 50 years after the invasion at the Bay of Pigs,” wrote David L. Sobel, a lawyer for the Archive.
The organization first requested the Bay of Pigs history in August 2005, saying it should be declassified under federal law requiring that records more than 25 years old be released.
The CIA refused. The Archive formally appealed in February 2011, saying:
We consider the lack of a response to be a denial.
The CIA didn’t respond and the Archive sued.
The Archive, founded in 1985, collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the FOIA.
In 1999, it won the George Polk Award, a prestigious journalism prize, for “piercing the self-serving veils of government secrecy, guiding journalists in the search for the truth and informing us all.”
In 2005, it won an Emmy Award for outstanding achievement in news and documentary research.

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