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Leon Panetta Flouts CIA Review Board Over $3 Million Book Deal, Moonlighting at the NSA, and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 10/23/2014

October 23, 2014
Leon Panetta holds a copy of The Washington Post reporting Osama bin Laden's death. Courtesy of the Panetta Institute

Leon Panetta holds a copy of The Washington Post reporting Osama bin Laden’s death.
Courtesy of the Panetta Institute

Former CIA director Leon Panetta, in what appears to be a violation of the secrecy agreement that requires all past and present CIA employees to submit any agency-related material that they “contemplate disclosing publicly” to the CIA’s Publications Review Board for approval, allowed his publisher to begin making copies of his memoir before it cleared the review process. Panetta was willing to challenge the agency review process over his book, Worthy Fights, which he received a $3 million book deal for, despite the fact that while serving as Secretary of Defense he “scolded” ex-SEAL Matt Bissonnette for publishing his account of the raid to kill Osama bin Laden, and said of a book written by a former CIA official against agency wishes that “CIA officers are duty-bound to observe the terms of their secrecy agreement with the agency.” Despite being “duty-bound” to secrecy, while CIA director Panetta gave his “full approval/support” to granting Hollywood filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal extensive access to CIA files and personnel for their film on the raid to capture Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty, even though most of these files remain shielded from the public.

Panetta allegedly grew “so frustrated with CIA delays and demands for redactions that he appealed to CIA Director John Brennan and threatened to proceed with publication without clearance from the agency.” Panetta’s frustration likely had something to do with Publications Review Board’s nonsensical ban on “references to CIA operations, including drone strikes, even when they have been mentioned by the president and documented extensively in the news media.” For example, even though Panetta publically commented on the CIA’s lethal drone campaign while manning the agency, comments that were so extensive that the American Civil Liberties Union argued in court the program could no longer be considered a government secret, “CIA drone strikes and other operations are described only obliquely” in his memoir.

Former NSA director Alexander, seen here in a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, June 2, 2014, did everything right but is going to stop doing it anyway because he might get in trouble...Photo Credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS

Former NSA director Alexander, seen here in a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, June 2, 2014, did everything right but is going to stop doing it anyway because he might get in trouble…Photo Credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS

IronNet Cybersecurity Inc, led by the former head of the National Security Agency (NSA), Keith Alexander, has ended its moonlighting agreement with a current agency official after the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it would investigate the arrangement. The Committee specifically wanted to examine the NSA’s “internal review” of the agreement that would have allowed Patrick Dowd, the NSA’s chief technical officer, to work 20 hours a week for Alexander’s company. Alexander announced the decision to end the arrangement by saying, “While we understand we did everything right, I think there’s still enough issues out there that create problems for Dr. Dowd, for NSA, for my company.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s torture program does not address the oversight role of the White House and or Bush “administration lawyers in crafting the legal framework that permitted the CIA to use simulated drowning called waterboarding and other interrogation methods widely described as torture,” according to recent McClatcy reporting. Elizabeth Goitein, the co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University Law School, said that if this is the case it is “then that’s a pretty serious indictment of the report.” The Senate report also does not recommend any new punishments or further criminal inquiries into the program.

Poland is appealing the European Court of Human Rights ruling that it violated its human rights commitments by allowing the CIA to maintain a secret “black prison” site on Polish territory as part of the CIA’s post-9/11 extraordinary rendition program. Poland continues to insist it never allowed the CIA to operate such a facility, despite the 2008 admission by CIA officials to the AP that a prison operated in Poland “from December 2002 until the fall of 2003.” Human rights groups believe more than a handful of terror suspects were held there, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

In a significant reversal from the stance President Obama took as a Senator, the White House may reaffirm a Bush-era interpretation of a torture treaty arguing that its obligations do not apply to US actions abroad, and that the US is not obligated “to bar cruelty outside its borders.” The administration will be forced to declare a position on the treaty before it sends a delegation to Geneva to appear before the Committee Against Torture next month. Debate surrounding the limitations of the torture treaty trace back to a leaked 2005 Department of Justice memo addressed to then White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales “that narrowly interpreted a statute banning torture. The memo’s focus on determining exactly what constituted torture was puzzling because the treaty made cruelty short of torture illegal, too. The mystery was solved when Mr. Gonzales revealed that Justice Department lawyers had concluded that the treaty’s cruelty ban did not protect noncitizens in American custody abroad.”

Bradlee and WaPo publisher Katharine Graham leave the U.S. District Court in D.C. on June 21, 1971. The newspaper got the go-ahead to print the Pentagon Papers. AP photo

Bradlee and WaPo publisher Katharine Graham leave the U.S. District Court in D.C. on June 21, 1971. The newspaper got the go-ahead to print the Pentagon Papers. AP photo

Ben Bradlee, former editor of the Washington Post who directed the paper’s Watergate coverage and ran the Pentagon Papers, died at the age of 93. Years after former solicitor general Erwin Griswold argued before the Supreme Court that publishing the Pentagon Papers could harm national security, a case the government lost 6-3, Griswold admitted, “I have never seen any trace of a threat to the national security from the publication.”

The FOIA Advisory Committee, established by the second Open Government National Action Plan and charged to improve FOIA administration, met for the second time earlier this week. The committee is comprised of ten government officials and ten non-government experts, including the Archive’s FOIA Coordinator Nate Jones, and discussed fee issues, a FOIA litigation review, and proactive disclosures. Unredacted will post a more thorough analysis of this second meeting next week.

Arhivist Jeff Richelson’s latest posting for the Nuclear Vault examines documents detailing the origins and functions of the NSA’s Defense Special Missile and Aerospace Center (DEFSMAC), which was created to cover Soviet missile launches and now tracks missile launches worldwide 24/7. DEFSMAC, “little known to the public,” provides alerts on missile launches ranging from Chinese ICBMs to Iraqi short-range ballistic missiles during the first Gulf War.

nytHolzerSunday’s issue of T: The New York Times Style Magazine features a spectacular orange page designed by the artist Jenny Holzer showcasing the National Security Archive. The Times asked Holzer and 14 other prominent artists to produce a page apiece in an “Advertisements for Myself” series. Holzer devoted her page to a Malevich-style block of orange color with only the words “The National Security Archive” and URLs for the Archive’s main Web site and online donation site.

Today’s #tbt document pick, chosen with Leon Panetta’s lucrative book deal and support for the makers of Zero Dark Thirty in mind, is a June 15, 2011, email from Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Doug Wilson to Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Benjamin Rhodes assuring Rhodes that the ZD30 project had the “full knowledge and full approval/support” of CIA Director Leon Panetta. As Nate Jones notes, “The U.S. government’s recalcitrance over releasing information directly to the public about the twenty-first century’s most important intelligence search and military raid, and its decision instead to grant the film’s producers exclusive and unprecedented access to classified information about the operation, means that for the time being – for bad or good – Hollywood has become the public’s ‘account of record’ for Operation Neptune Spear.” Today’s #tbt pick is part of a collection of emails and memos released in response to a Judicial Watch FOIA request, and collectively detail ZD30 filmmakers’ privileged access to “CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell, DOD Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers, and five CIA and military operatives involved in the raid.”

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Happy FOIA-ing!

Gough Whitlam, Former Australian PM who Criticized 1972 US Bombing of Hanoi, Dies at 98

October 22, 2014

Gough Whitlam meets Richard Nixon at the White House for the first time in July 1973. Source: The Australian.

Gough Whitlam, who served as the Australian Prime Minister from 1972 until 1975 when the Queen’s Governor-General dismissed him at the height of Australia’s constitutional crisis – a move Whitlam later inferred was supported by the CIA –, died this week at the age of 98. During his truncated term, Whitlam finished withdrawing Australian troops from Vietnam, criticized the Nixon administration for Operation Linebacker II and the 1972 Christmas bombing of Hanoi, and ultimately supported Indonesia’s annexation of East Timor. His position on Vietnam did nothing to endear him to the Nixon administration, particularly to National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, but declassified Kissinger telephone conversations (telcons) previously published through the Digital National Security Archive help depict a more complicated relationship with the man Kissinger once called a “bastard.”

B-52 Stratofortress, US Air Force Photo.

B-52 Stratofortress, US Air Force Photo.

A December 20, 1972, telcon of unknown classification records Henry Kissinger’s conversation with Australian Chargé d’Affaires, Roy Fernandez, regarding a letter newly-elected Whitlam sent President Nixon condemning Linebacker II (the most aggressive aerial bombardment of the Vietnam War that killed as many as 1,600 civilians in what the Washington Post called “the most savage and senseless act of war ever visited, over a scant 10 days, by one sovereign people over another”). Whitlam’s letter, which urged the US to return to peace talks, infuriated Kissinger, who told Fernandez “to convey that we are not particularly amused” by Whitlam’s comments, and that they were “no way to start a relationship” with the Nixon administration. During the conversation Kissinger explicitly says he wants to prevent the discussion of – much less criticism of US action in – Vietnam from becoming part of the “official record.” A seemingly terrified Fernandez readily agrees, saying “Yep. Yes,” Kissinger’s threat was not an “official communication.”

On December 29, Kissinger, still fuming, told Nixon the Australian letter was “a cheap little maneuver,” and both men agreed to freeze-out Whitlam until he got the point it was not his place to chastise the US. When asked during a March 16, 1973, phone conversation why Kissinger refused to ever dignify Whitlam’s letter with an answer, Kissinger said, “there wasn’t much point to it,” since he had conveyed a verbal official communication through the US Ambassador.

"We are not particularly amused"

“We are not particularly amused”

In an ongoing series of chilly conversations regarding Whitlam, on July 31, 1973, Kissinger told New York Times reporter Bernard Gwertzman that Whitlam’s upcoming first visit to Washington was not a “world-shaking” event, though one that was ultimately necessary to “keep Whitlam in line” on Asia policy (in the same conversation, Gwertzman asked Kissinger why the National Security Advisor would consider being the Secretary of State during the Nixon administration, and Kissinger replied, “Everyone is fighting for the number two oar in the lifeboat”). A telcon dated August 10, 1973, shows Kissinger quipping that Whitlam’s difficulties scheduling an audience with President Nixon “were not uncharacteristic.”

American-Australian relations were not much improved by January 8, 1974. An Unclassified telcon from that day records Kissinger and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger complaining about both Whitlam and Australian Ambassador James Plimsoll. Irked at being snubbed a dinner invitation from Plimsoll, who had previously told Kissinger he wanted “to straighten out the [American-Australian] relationship,” Kissinger called Whitlam a “bastard.”

K: He is a bastard. S: Yes.

K: He is a bastard. S: Yes.

Whitlam again visited Washington on October 5, 1974, before visiting Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in Ottawa, this time finding more common cause with the Ford administration. Discussions revolved around Indonesia, whose conditions Kissinger said were ripe for a “built-in revolution” (on a tangent discussing student protestors, President Ford remarked that his second son “could have become a Communist or a John Bircher but he turned out to be a middle-of-the-roader”).

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CIA Weekly Review article on Whitlam and Portuguese Timor.

A later Top Secret Umbra April 11, 1975, CIA article details Australian fears that Indonesia was preparing “an imminent move against Timor” in the wake of Portugal granting Timor independence. Whitlam, who championed the rights of indigenous Australians, was initially against intervention, though he ultimately supported Indonesian annexation to maintain stability in the region and to prevent an opening for further American or Soviet intervention in Southeast Asia.

On May 7, 1975, during his final trip to Washington and on the heels of the end of the Vietnam War, Whitlam assured Kissinger and President Ford that Australia would do its part accepting Vietnamese refugees. In a Confidential memorandum of conversation from the same day, the President concedes that Whitlam and the Australians were “helpful in [the evacuation of] Danang,” Vietnam, and both Whitlam and Kissinger agreed on the need to maintain stability in Indonesia and the Philippines.

By 1975 it appeared that Whitlam had achieved a common, if not entirely friendly, ground with Kissinger and the Ford administration. It was not ground he was able to hold, however, and he was dismissed six months after his final visit to Washington.

Several years after Whitlam’s dismissal, Christopher Boyce, an American contractor affiliated with the CIA who spent a quarter-century in prison for selling secrets to the Soviets, claimed the agency played a central role in what was effectively a coup to remove Whitlam from power. Boyce, echoed by investigative journalist John Pilger and Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist Jonathan Kwitny, argued Whitlam’s removal was primarily over US concerns Whitlam would withdraw Australia from the Pine Gap Agreement – a pact that allowed the US to maintain a military base in central Australia. One day before he dismissed Whitlam, the Governor-General – a man Kwitny notes continually “went to the CIA for money” – was advised of the “security crisis” Whitlam’s stance on Pine Gap posed. Whitlam was out of office the next day.

David Greenglass’ False Grand Jury Testimony Against his Sister Ethel Rosenberg “The Smoking Gun” in Espionage Case, Still Classified

October 16, 2014
Police photos of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (Source: Exhibits from the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Case File, 03/13/1951 - 03/27/1951)

Police photos of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (Source: Exhibits from the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Case File, 03/13/1951 – 03/27/1951)

On the condition that he be paid for his story, David Greenglass agreed to give New York Times reporter Sam Roberts an interview for what would become Roberts’ 2001 book, “The Brother: The Untold Story of Atomic Spy David Greenglass and How He Sent His Sister, Ethel Rosenberg, to the Electric Chair.” During the course of their sessions, Greenglass admitted to Roberts “he had lied on the witness stand about the single most incriminating evidence against his sister — that she typed his handwritten notes for delivery to the Soviets. Without that testimony, Ethel Rosenberg might well have never been convicted, much less executed.”

Greenglass, who justified providing false testimony against his sister in order to protect his wife Ruth for her minor role in the conspiracy, died earlier this week at the age of 92.

Page from Ethel Rosenbergs August 7, 1950, testimony.

Page from Ethel Rosenberg’s August 7, 1950, testimony.

In 2008, the National Security Archive – represented by David Vladeck who was then with Public Citizen and is now at Georgetown Law School – and a coalition of historians brought legal action against the federal government to obtain copies of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg grand jury transcripts. The action won the release of most of the transcripts, which “cast significant doubt on the key prosecution charge used to convict Ethel Rosenberg at the trial and sentence her to death.”

FBI records support the case for doubt, and show David and Ruth Greenglass waited until just ten days before to trial to report that Ethel typed up the information David obtained from his job at the Los Alamos for passing to Julius Rosenberg.  This omission raised questions as to why Greenglass did not report Ethel’s treasonous behavior earlier.

ethelarrestDavid Greenglass’ testimony, which was described as “the smoking gun” in his sister’s conviction, was withheld from the 2008 release and is still secret.

For more information on the Rosenberg spy case and the Archive’s work to release the case’s grand just testimonies, see the Archive’s postings, Rosenberg Grand Jury Files Released and More Cold War Espionage Transcripts Unsealed.

Pentagon Sees Climate Change as Immediate National Security Risk, CIA Rebel Training Largely Unhelpful, and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 10/16/2014

October 16, 2014
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday at a meeting in Peru. Credit Paolo Aguilar/European Pressphoto Agency

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, whose views on climate change have changed considerably since 1997, on Monday at a meeting in Peru. Credit Paolo Aguilar/European Pressphoto Agency

This week the Pentagon released an unclassified report definitively stating climate change poses an immediate risk to U.S. national security, and announced plans to integrate climate change risks across all aspects of Pentagon operations. This report marks a shift from earlier Pentagon analyses, which addressed the future, rather than immediate, risks of climate change. The emphasis on current climate change issues “is aimed in part at building support for a United Nations agreement, to be signed next year in Paris, that would require the world’s largest producers of planet-warming carbon pollution to slash their emissions.” The report also signifies a shift in Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s views on climate change – as a Republican Senator for Nebraska he helped write a bipartisan resolution urging the Senate not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Rebel fighters in Nicaragua in 1987. Credit John Hopper/Associated Press

Rebel fighters in Nicaragua in 1987. Credit John Hopper/Associated Press

A classified CIA review commissioned by the Obama administration to help determine whether or not the U.S. should intervene in the Syrian civil war has found that covertly arming and training rebel groups rarely works, and that the training is often less effective than “when the militias fought without any direct American support on the ground.” The CIA has been training and arming rebel groups “from Angola to Nicaragua to Cuba” throughout its history, and the classified review found that the rare successful exception was the 1989 training of mujahedeen rebels – some of whom went on to be instrumental in the forming of Al Qaeda – to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan. The report attributed the 1989 success largely to the “Pakistani intelligence officers working with the rebels in Afghanistan.”

Trials are beginning this month concerning the Pentagon’s Navy intelligence office, the Directorate for Plans, Policy, Oversight and Integration. The case concerns a civilian Navy intelligence official from the little-known office, which consists mostly of retired military personnel that are characterized by other Navy officials as “wanna-be spook-cops,” and a California auto mechanic “who prosecutors allege conspired to manufacture an untraceable batch of automatic-rifle silencers.” While most of the case documents are withheld to prevent damage to national security, “According to the records that have been made public, the crux of the case is whether the silencers were properly purchased for an authorized secret mission or were assembled for a rogue operation.”

A FOIA request submitted by the New York Times (NYT) has garnered the release of intelligence documents revealing U.S. troops found more than 4,990 chemical weapons in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. Information about the chemical weapons stockpiles has largely been withheld, from both Congress and the public, with Army soldiers ordered to be evasive when recounting what chemical weapons they uncovered. In the course of investigating the weapons stockpiles, NYT found “In case after case, participants said, analysis of these warheads and shells reaffirmed intelligence failures. First, the American government did not find what it had been looking for at the war’s outset, then it failed to prepare its troops and medical corps for the aged weapons it did find.”

U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos has asked the government to provide a written argument why it should not “have to publicly explain its reasons for invoking the state secrets privilege” in a private defamation lawsuit brought by Greek shipping mogul Victor Restis against United Against Nuclear Iran. The Department of Justice invoked the state secrets privilege in the Restis case last month, a privilege normally reserved for cases involving government surveillance and espionage, and if granted this would mark the first time the privilege will be used without a public explanation for it.

The National Security Agency (NSA) said in response to a FOIA request that a report on authorized disclosures of classified intelligence to the media is classified. The FY2013 Intelligence Authorization Act requires the intelligence community to notify Congress in the event of “authorized disclosure[s] of national intelligence” to help intelligence committees distinguish between authorized disclosures – a common practice in national security reporting – and leaks. Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists notes, “If something is classified, how can its disclosure be authorized (without declassification)? And if something is disclosed by an official who is authorized to do so, how can it still be classified? And yet, it seems that there is such a thing.”

Former NSA head Michael Hayden told CBS’ 60 Minutes he was “conflicted” about whether or not NYT reporter James Risen should be compelled to reveal his source for a story on a CIA plot to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. Hayden said that ultimately, however, it would be wrong to compel Risen to reveal his sources if “the method of redressing that actually harms the broad freedom of the press.” At issue is Risen’s refusal to testify in former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling’s leaks trial that resulted from his disclosures regarding Operation Merlin, a Clinton-era CIA effort to sabotage Iranian nuclear research, which was the subject of a chapter in Risen’s 2006 book, State of War. The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Risen in June over his refusal to testify, and outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder sent mixed messages on whether or not the government will pursue jailing Risen for his refusal to testify.

A recently declassified CIA Studies in Intelligence article shows the U.S. was “largely in the dark about something that might have been central to the Shah’s calculations during the critical final years of his rule” – the extent of his lymphatic cancer. The author notes, “Had we known the Shah was suffering from cancer of the lymph nodes since 1973, our government’s judgements as to his ability to deal with the revolutionary forces that swept through Iran would probably have been quite different. Serious doubts would have replaced the guarded optimism concerning his ability to weather the storm.”

Police photos of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (Source: Exhibits from the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Case File, 03/13/1951 - 03/27/1951)

Police photos of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (Source: Exhibits from the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Case File, 03/13/1951 – 03/27/1951)

David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg’s brother who admitted to lying in his testimony in the Rosenberg espionage trial to protect his wife Ruth, died earlier this week at the age of 92. To commemorate the central lie behind the “trial of the century,” this week’s #tbt document picks are the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg grand jury transcripts, released in 2008 thanks to legal action brought by the National Security Archive and a coalition of historians. The transcripts support David’s post-trial claim, with FBI records showing David and Ruth only mentioned that Ethel –not Ruth – typed the information David obtained from his job at the Los Alamos nuclear installation for passing to Julius Rosenberg and the Soviet Union. Stay tuned, because the Archive will have more on the Greenglass case very soon.

Happy FOIA-ing!


Declassified U.S. Documents Help Fill Void Left by Thailand’s Silence on 38th Anniversary of Thammasat University Massacre

October 10, 2014
Still from Financial Times footage of Thammasat students protesting the coup and cancellation of commemorative events for the anniversary of the October 6, 1976 student massacre.

Still from Financial Times footage of Thammasat students protesting the coup and cancellation of commemorative events for the anniversary of the October 6, 1976 student massacre.

This week marks the 38th anniversary of the student massacre at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand on October 6, 1976, which saw between 50 and 100 leftist student protesters tortured and killed, hundreds more injured, and thousands arrested.1 Now, thanks to the declassification efforts of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), over 75 previously classified documents are available, helping fill the void left by the Thai government’s silence on the event.

On October 6, 1976, right-wing and left-wing protesters clashed at the Thammasat University, resulting in a massacre of leftist students by Thai police and paramilitary forces. On that same day, the minister of defense, Admiral Sa-ngad Chaloryu, seized power in a coup. Much of the correspondence between the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and the Secretary of State in Washington, D.C. regarding that day’s incidents focuses on the political turmoil and threat of communism. Limited coverage focuses on the brutality of the massacre as U.S. embassy officials attempted to understand the complex and shifting political situation.

One of the first October 6, 1976, U.S. Embassy cables from Bangkok reports:

“Initial announcement describes danger facing country as coming from group of students who have committed acts of lèse-majesté [speaking against the royal family] (reference to mock hanging at Thammasat University Oct. 4 at which students acted as hanging victim bore superficial resemblance to crown prince). Students aim state to destroy monarchy as part of communist scheme. Students resisted arrest and fought back with weapons ‘in league with Vietnamese communist terrorists.’”

danger faces the country

“danger faces the country”

The next day, on October 7th, a U.S. embassy official writes of the “auspicious timing of the coup” which allowed the brutal killings to take place, “effectively neutralizing the activists.” [Read full document here.]

"brutal killings...effectively neutralized the activists."

“brutal killings…effectively neutralized the activists.”

Days later, on October 18th, U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, Charles Whitehouse, reports of a conversation with the King’s personal secretary, Mom Luang Thawisan Ladawan, providing rare insight into Thai royalty’s political views (one of the stipulations of the lèse-majesté law is the prohibition of speaking about the King’s political views):2

“He [the King’s secretary] said that the Thai need for US support had increased owing to the more positive anti-communist stance being taken by the new government. This position would doubtless aggravate Thailand’s relations with its communist neighbors and increase the risks to the kingdom…the King hoped that there was some way by which the US could explain that the change of government had been brought about as a result of the weakness of the Seni government and the provocative actions of communist-inspired students. I said frankly I could see no way of overcoming the worldwide impact of the photo and television coverage of the events of October 6th at Thammasat University.”

Conversation with King's private secretary

Conversation with King’s private secretary

An October 14, 1976, cable from Ambassador Whitehouse reports on the National Administrative Reform Council’s (NARC) “establishment of re-education centers for ‘individuals dangerous to society.’” He comments that “while such announcements have the sound of Germany in the 30’s, it is difficult at this point to determine the true intentions of the NARC.” In another October 14 cable, he expresses “concern over book burning, brainwashing camps, and the quite evident shortcomings of military rule.” Ambassador Whitehouse also reports a conversation with two university professors who “thought that the government would begin cracking down on university teachers with liberal or leftist views, and that it would be difficult or impossible for them to continue teaching.”

Usually, Thailand marks the anniversary of this massacre with commemorations and memorial events at Thammasat Univeristy. This year, however, commemoration ceremonies were cancelled, as a newspaper reports, to “comply with the military junta’s ban on all political activities.” Some students and professors protested the cancellation of the ceremony and limitations to free speech and assembly, to little avail. Space to have larger public conversations about Thai politics do not exist, and many political books are banned. Quiet conversations take place on social media, but in the face of great risk, and many controversial pieces end up getting taken down or blocked inside Thailand.

Image that appears in Thailand when trying to access information blocked by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, from August 2014.

Image that appears in Thailand when trying to access information blocked by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, from August 2014.

In the void left by the Thai government, the U.S. government’s continuing disclosure of information about the massacre is essential for the historical record. For a complete picture, however, the Thai government must open its own archives on the massacre.


In many cases, the U.S. government has declassified records on foreign atrocities, encouraging other governments to provide public access to important human rights information in the search for justice. Such instances include:

1968 Student Massacre – Tlatelolco, Mexico City, Mexico

1980s disappearances in El Salvador – the Yellow Book

1994 Forced Disappearance in the Dominican Republic

Declassified U.S. Documents support Truth Commission Efforts in Brazil, and Diplomacy

Right to Information Movement in Latin America

Find this information and more at the National Security Archive’s website.

1. [The official number of dead is 46, though other estimates put the number well over 100. [Leifer, Michael. Dictionary of Modern Politics of South-East Asia. New York: Routledge, 1995. Pg. 233-234]]

2. [This document was posted on a social media webpage accompanied by a full translation into Thai, however was removed a short time later, proving the great interest in access to this information in Thailand, but also the intense restrictions of freedom of speech and expression still plaguing the country.]

DEA Uses Woman’s Intimate Photos for Fake Facebook Page in Drug Investigation, the FBI’s National Security Letters Under Judicial Scrutiny Again, and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 10/10/2014

October 10, 2014
Images from the fraudulent Facebook page created by the DEA, which has since been shut down.

Images from the fraudulent Facebook page created by the DEA, which has since been shut down.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday that it will review federal law enforcement practices after reports surfaced that a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent impersonated a young woman on Facebook, posting racy photos of her and pictures of her underage son and niece on the social media site as part of a drug investigation. DEA agent Timothy Sinnigen created the fake Facebook profile after obtaining photos from Sondra Arquiett’s cell phone while she was awaiting trial for her participation in a drug ring (she was ultimately placed on probation), and even sent a “friend request” to a wanted fugitive from the fake account. Arquiett is now suing Sinnigen for violating her privacy and placing her and her family in danger. The DOJ contends, however, that even though Arquiett did not give express permission for her photos to be used in the face Facebook page, she “implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in . . . ongoing criminal investigations.” Facebook has taken down the fraudulent page for violating the site’s “community standards” policy.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering whether or not the gag orders that prevent recipients of the FBI’s National Security Letters (NSL) from discussing them constitute a violation of the First Amendment. The NSLs, which demand business records from a wide array of organizations for national security investigations, have been a long-standing concern for privacy advocates in part because of their insufficient judicial oversight and draconian nondisclosure agreements. In 2004 Judge Victor Marrero ruled in Doe v. Ashcroft that the NSLs violate the Fourth Amendment, which led to revisions of the USA Patriot Act that allowed for greater judicial review and clarifications to the non-disclosure clauses. However, there are still no requirements to seek approval or judicial review when sending an NSL, and the non-disclosure provisions prevent the full extent of the NSL program from becoming known.

Twitter is suing the U.S. government for the right to disclose more information about the government requests for user data it receives. The U.S. government relaxed some data disclosure rules for technology companies at the beginning of this year, prompting Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook to drop their lawsuits arguing for the right to disclose “the volume and types of national security requests” they received before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The new rules allow technology companies to disclose the existence of the FISC orders they receive (though not the exact numbers), publish that information every six months (with a six-month delay), and release the number of “selectors” (user names, email addresses or Internet addresses) the government requested information about. Twitter, however, “opted not to participate in that agreement,” choosing instead to fight to share more specific data on the number and types of requests it receives.

Agron Hasbajrami may reverse his guilty plea in light of the NSAs warrantless surveillance notice. DOJ image.

Agron Hasbajrami may reverse his guilty plea in light of warrantless surveillance notice. DOJ image.

U.S. District Judge John Gleeson ruled that an Albanian man who pled guilty in 2012 to a terrorism charge for sending money to a militant group in Pakistan may withdraw his guilty plea after the Justice Department provided him a notice of warrantless surveillance. This is the fifth case the DOJ has issued such a notice for after the department determined last year that criminal defendants should be notified of such surveillance.

U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler recently ordered the government to prepare 28 videos showing Guantanamo detainee Abi Wa’el Dhiab being force-fed for public release. Kessler found the government’s argument that the tapes needed to be kept secret to protect national security “unacceptably vague, speculative, lack[ing] specificity or are just plain implausible,” and said the government’s assertion that the release of the tapes would help detainees develop “countermeasures” to the feedings “strains credulity.” Kessler also wrote that the government’s argument that the release of the tapes would violate the third Geneva convention to “protect detainees from public curiosity” turns “the third Geneva convention on its head.” The Department of Defense admitted in May it has video recordings of force-feeding Guantanamo Bay detainees, at the same time detainees accused the U.S. of manipulating data on inmates’ hunger strikes, including how many times inmates are subjected to force feedings to keep strike numbers artificially low.

The U.S. Cyber Command announced its plan to recruit “6,000 cyber professionals and create 133 teams across the country to support the Pentagon in defending the nation’s cyber infrastructure,” even though it’s still unclear which branch of the military is primarily responsible for responding to cyber threats. The recruitment notice comes shortly after a recent Washington Post report found an “exodus” of top-level employees at the Department of Homeland Security, noting specifically that cybersecurity professionals at the agency had the highest turnover rates due to more lucrative opportunities in the private sector.

The Air Force is fighting back against a recent Pentagon Inspector General report that accuses the Air Force of possibly wasting $8.8 billion on unnecessary Reaper drones. The IG report “said that officials did not receive appropriate approval for an increase in quantity. The Air Force also failed to perform a proper analysis to justify the amount needed.” In a rare rebuttal of a DOD IG report, the Air Force posted a response on its website arguing the IG report relied on year-old data.

J. Robert Oppenheimer Personnel Hearings. DOE image.

J. Robert Oppenheimer Personnel Hearings. DOE image.

The Department of Energy has, for the first time, declassified the full transcript of the 1954 J. Robert Oppenheimer Atomic Energy Commission hearing. The hearing – triggered by concerns over his loyalty – ultimately stripped Oppenheimer, who led the Manhattan Project in producing the first atomic bomb, of his security clearance. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists noted that the hearing “represented a breakdown in relations between scientists and the U.S. government and within the scientific community itself.” The DOE had previously released redacted portions of the hearing in response to FOIA requests, and has finally declassified it in full as part of “a continuing series of DOE declassifications of historical records of documents of particular historic value and public interest.”

This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Archive’s lawsuit to save Reagan administration White House emails from destruction. To celebrate, this week’s #tbt (ed note: my bad we’re late!) document pick is a collection of the intriguing excerpts of the highest-level White House communications on the most secret national security affairs of the United States during the 1980s – that never would have seen the light of day without the suit brought by the Archive and allied historians, librarians, and public interest lawyers. The excerpts capture candid thoughts from National Security Council member from Oliver North on his “depressing” April 1986 trip to El Salvador, a June 26, 1986, note from National Security Adviser John Poindexter on how to ensure Iraq’s success in the Iran-Iraq war, and much more.

R: Weinberger and Reagan 1-10-83, L: Regan, Reagan, Bush, McFarlane (daily national security briefing) 6-20-85

R: Weinberger and Reagan 1-10-83, L: Regan, Reagan, Bush, McFarlane (daily national security briefing) 6-20-85

Happy FOIA-ing!

Declassified Documents Play Important Role in Legal Proceedings Against “Baby Doc” and Associates

October 8, 2014

By Alexandra Smith

Jean-Claude Duvalier escorted by police upon his return to Haiti in 2011. Photo credit: Ramon Espinosa/AP

Jean-Claude Duvalier escorted by police upon his return to Haiti in 2011. Photo credit: Ramon Espinosa/AP

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, also known as “Baby Doc,” died on October 4, 2014, at the age of 63, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He returned to Haiti in 2011 after living in France in self-imposed exile for 25 years, and died never having apologized for the atrocities committed by his regime.

In April 1971, nineteen-year-old Jean-Claude was named “Papa Doc” Francois Duvalier’s successor as President-for-Life. He ruled Haiti for fifteen years, during which time he continued his father’s practices of arresting, detaining, torturing, and murdering dissidents. While in power, the “State of Siege” proclaimed in 1958 was never lifted, Haiti’s Anti Communist Law was cited in numerous brutal crackdowns on press and political parties, and the ubiquitous Ton Ton Macoutes had a free hand to intimidate opponents of the regime. Duvalier is also known for his lavish spending at the expense of the Haitian people (including marrying Michele Bennett in what the Guiness Book of World Records labels “the most expensive” wedding ever).

Jean-Claude Duvalier delivers a speech at the Presidential Palace in Por-au-Prince on January 2, 1976. Photo By Afp_AFP_Getty Images

Jean-Claude Duvalier delivers a speech at the Presidential Palace in Por-au-Prince on January 2, 1976. Photo credit: AFP/Getty images

Legal proceedings began against the former President-for-Life after his 2011 return to, and subsequent arrest in, Haiti on charges of human rights violations. According to Lawyers Without Borders of Canada, trial preparations will continue. The organization’s October 4 press release states: “The death of […] Jean-Claude Duvalier does not put an end to the prosecution of those most responsible for serious human rights violations committed under the Duvalier regime.”

Duvalier’s associates named in the legal proceedings include Jean Valmé, Chief of the Service Detectif, Duvalier’s secret civilian police group, and Emmanuel Orcel, a Service Detectif commander. Both Valmé and Orcel are known to have participated in interrogations at the infamous prison Casernes Dessalines.

National Security Archive Senior Analyst Kate Doyle and her research assistant Alexandra Smith have worked with Lawyers Without Borders and the plaintiff coalition Collectif contre l’impunité to provide declassified U.S. documents that will act as evidence in the case against the ex-dictator’s accomplices.

The documents provided by the Archive help show the regime’s numerous attempts to hide or deny the systematic rights abuses that occurred under Jean-Claude Duvalier, while the regime simultaneously disregarded and flouted international human rights standards. For example, an Unclassified December 19, 1980, report from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince describes Duvalier’s coy response to questions from the U.S. Ambassador regarding use of torture, in which he states that yes, some of the prisoners were “spanked a bit.” An earlier September 8, 1977, Top Secret Sensitive Codeword White House memo recounts the assertion by a top Haitian official that foreign human rights investigators “will see nothing contrary to their standards because ‘we will hide what has to be hidden.’” The author of the memo goes on to explain, “Duvalier does not intend to introduce any significant reforms or to refrain from using arrests or the threat of arrests to remove people he views as political threats.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 3.50.41 PM

Opponents were “spanked a bit.”

Danièle Magloire, Coordinator for Collectif contre l’impunité, explains that beyond their function as evidence, documents unearthed by the Archive contribute to the important process of building a collective memory: “The documents uncovered, the testimony collected, the words exchanged, are all part of the struggle against impunity, and contribute to the creation of a democratic society in Haiti, one that is able to confront its past in order to build a better future.”


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