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Episode 1 of “After Ayotzinapa” Podcast Premieres Tomorrow, January 15

January 14, 2022

By Claire Dorfman

“After Ayotzinapa” artwork. Credit: Dante Aguilera

On Saturday, January 15th, the first episode of “After Ayotzinapa,” Part One: The Missing 43, will premiere on podcast platforms and radio stations around the United States! The three-part serial is the result of a two-year collaboration between the National Security Archive and Reveal News from the Center for Investigative Reporting. 

Reported and co-produced by National Security Archive senior analyst Kate Doyle and Reveal senior reporter Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, “After Ayotzinapa” reveals the story of what happened in the months and years following the forced disappearance of 43 college students in the state of Guerrero, Mexico on September 26, 2014. 

There are three ways to listen to the premier episode:

  1. On your podcast app of choice: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher 
  2. On Reveal’s website 
  3. On more than 600 radio stations around the country, for example –
City, StateNetwork NameCall LettersDialDateTime
San Francisco, CAKQEDKQWS-FM88.5Saturday4 PM
Los Angeles, CAKPCCKPCC-FM89.3Sunday4 PM
Houston, TXKUHFKUHF-FM88.7Saturday2 PM
Washington, DCWAMUWAMU-FM88.5Sunday3 PM
Boston, MAWGBHWGBH-FM89.7Sunday1 PM
New York, NYWNYCWNYC-FM
WNYC-AM
93.9
820
Sunday
Sunday
11 AM
7 PM
Chicago, ILWBEZWBEZ-FM91.5Saturday3 PM
Miami, FLWLRNWLRN-FM109.9Saturday3 PM

Cómo escucharnos desde México y más allá:

Puedes reproducir los episodios desde el sitio web de Reveal o en aplicaciones como Apple Podcasts, Spotify y Stitcher

New NSArchive/Reveal News Podcast Coming 1/15, a New Domestic Terrorism Unit, and More: FRINFORMSUM 1/13/2022

January 13, 2022
Original digital collage by Jan Nimmo, Yo, Jan Nimmo, Glasgow, Escocia, quiero saber dónde está Benjamín Ascencio Bautista

“After Ayotzinapa” Podcast Investigates Horrific Mexican Atrocity

On Saturday, January 15, a new podcast exploring the shocking case of 43 Mexican students disappeared by security forces in 2014 will launch on radio stations around the United States and on podcast platforms. The three-part serial is the result of a two-year collaboration between the National Security Archive and Reveal News from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Although the stark facts of the Ayotzinapa case are known worldwide, the podcast features interviews, insights, and investigative findings that have never before been heard.  They include eye-witness accounts, exclusive interviews with the Mexican special prosecutor and a retired DEA officer, testimonies, and vivid personal accounts of survivors and relatives of the victims.

Reported and co-produced by National Security Archive senior analyst Kate Doyle and Reveal senior reporter Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, “After Ayotzinapa” exposes the story of what happened in the months and years following that terrible “night of Iguala.” Listen along on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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NSArchive January 6 Anniversary Postings

National Security Archive staff marked the one-year anniversary of the January 6 riot with two new postings.  

The first item is a meticulously researched timeline of the day’s events. The chronology, which will serve as an important tool for investigators, researchers, and the public, is divided into three main parts:

  1. Events that took place at the Capitol that we know about thanks to stellar reporting from organizations like ProPublica, The New York Times, the AP, The Washington Post, NPR, Politico, and Newsweek, as well as information provided by a host of both local and federal officials in Congressional testimony;
  2. Activity at the White House, drawn primarily from former President Trump’s official statements on Twitter;
  3. The Department of Defense’s official timeline that was published on January 8, 2021.

The chronology, taken together with our three previous January 6 sourcebooks, provides a high level of detail about the attempted coup, while at the same time underscoring just how much about federal or local government decisions and actions remains unknown to the public.  Each entry includes a source, with hyperlink, and a Who’s Who of key figures is also provided.  The Archive will update the timeline as important new information surfaces.

The second item is a Cyber Brief from Archive Cyber Fellow Cristin J. Monahan examining the double-edged role the Internet played in the January 6 attack and its aftermath. Documents highlighted in the Brief include a January 12, 2021, Congressional Research Service report, “Cybersecurity Concerns Related to the Recent Breach of U.S. Capitol Security,” which Monahan notes highlights a trifecta of core issues:

  • “the role of social media platforms in enabling violent groups to organize and carry out their objectives, and the role of government in monitoring that speech;
  • the use of public communications networks for alerting congressional building occupants; and
  • the risk to information and technology from unauthorized and unscreened persons’ access to the U.S. Capitol.”

Another document highlighted in the brief, the declassified January 11, 2021, United States Postal Inspection Service, Situational Awareness Bulletin – Intelligence Summary: United States Capitol Riot Data Archives, which was released thanks to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Property of the People, details how law enforcement relied on members of the public who archived online material from Parler for intelligence.  Read the rest of the documents in the National Security Archive’s Cyber Vault. 

Congressional Staffers Emailed DOJ RE January 6 Concerns

FOIA releases to Buzzfeed News show that “At least two congressional staffers from House and Senate committees reached out to the FBI and the Justice Department concerned about security at the Capitol ahead of the Jan. 6 riots.” Reporters Kadia Goba and Jason Leopold note that the FOIA releases underscore that the FBI was unprepared for the riot despite warnings and requests for help.  The releases, which came only after Buzzfeed News filed a FOIA lawsuit, show that: 

  • The House Intelligence Committee requested a threat assessment and clarification on coordination between the FBI and the Department of Defense on January 5, 2021, citing growing concern about the transition; in response the Committee received “a brief and non-substantive reply from the FBI that did not provide any information about potential threats on January 6.”
  • A Democratic staffer on the Senate Appropriations Committee sent several emails between January 4 and January 7 to both the Department of Justice and the FBI inquiring about additional law enforcement presence at the Capitol for January 6.
  • Other notable releases include a redacted Department of Justice “copy of then–acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue’s handwritten notes from a Jan. 4, 2021, phone call he had with Michael Sherwin, the then–acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, that discusses crowd estimates and law enforcement plans. Donoghue’s notes say: ‘no need for additional resources now,’” and intelligence memos prepared by the Department of Homeland Security and FBI that were sent to local law enforcement on the anticipated threat posed by the “Stop the Steal” rally.

New Domestic Terrorism Unit

The Justice Department is forming a new domestic terrorism unit, according to January 11, 2022, testimony from Matthew G. Olsen, the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Olsen reported that the number of FBI investigations of domestic violent extremists had more than doubled since 2020; he also said “authorities had arrested and charged more than 725 people, including more than 325 facing felony counts, in connection with their roles in the Jan. 6 attack.”

Olson’s testimony comes at the same time as Democratic lawmakers are scrutinizing why the DOJ has yet to seek harsher domestic terrorism sentences for those charged in connection with the January 6 attack. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports that such enhancements “typically adds about 15 years in prison to a defendant’s recommended sentence, sets the minimum calculation at 17 and a half years, and also flips the person charged into the criminal-history category used for serial offenders.” Olsen testified that the DOJ could still request such enhancements “as prosecutors win convictions in more-serious cases.” 

In Brief

  • The first Guantanamo Bay detainees arrived on the base 20 years ago this week. The Nation’s Clair MacDougall’s story marking the anniversary, which draws heavily on decades of FOIA work by journalists and human rights advocates, finds that press restrictions are getting worse.
  • Public records obtained by The Markup are shedding light on Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that builds education software, and its work to collect troves of personal data on children, “which they use to fuel a suite of predictive analytics products that push the boundaries of technology’s role in education and, in some cases, raise discrimination concerns.”
  • Jason Leopold recently tweeted, “This week, I learned that for at least 2 yrs an official in HHS #FOIA office held a monthly contest for staff who processed requests: those who redacted the most pages of docs per month could choose a paid day off or a $25 gift card from DoorDash. If you have info I’m on Signal.”
  • Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, has announced his retirement, effective mid-April 2022. Ferriero has led the National Archives and Records Administration for 12 years; prior to that, he served as the Director of the New York Public Library.

Weekend Read: Social Media, USPS Surveillance, and the Capitol Attack

January 7, 2022

Archive Cyber Fellow Cristin Monahan examined government records that highlight the double-edged role the Internet played in the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack and its aftermath in this week’s Cyber Brief: Cyber and the Insurrection, One Year Later. While social media sites like Parler were used to help plan and coordinate the January 6 attack, the public record also makes clear that they allowed civilian sleuths (some called themselves “Sedition Hunters”) to collect and share data to identify riot participants, aiding federal authorities. 

The posting features the declassified January 11, 2021, United States Postal Inspection Service, Situational Awareness Bulletin – Intelligence Summary: United States Capitol Riot Data Archives, which was released thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request by Property of the People. The bulletin details how law enforcement relied on members of the public who archived online material from Parler for intelligence. The USPIS document shows that while Amazon suspended Parler’s web services on January 9, 2021, following an alarming influx in popularity after the insurrection (Cnet reported that the app was downloaded 997,000 times across the Apple App Store and Google Play between January 6th and January 10th – more than ten times the amount leading up to January 6), that by January 10, 2021, a public media server set up by data archive company Intelligence X to capture the Parler posts had caught “over 200 Gigabytes of data and has surpassed 10 Terabytes of download traffic.” Monahan states, “The bulletin’s authors conclude that while Parler itself is inaccessible for the foreseeable future, ‘the efforts fronted by … public contributions of data can assist law enforcement in the analysis and identification of parties involved in the US Capitol Protests.’”

The US Postal Inspection Service learned about the Intelligence X trove from its Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP ) – an obscure arm of the Postal Service that monitors social media posts. As Politico reported on September 27, 2021, two January 11 USPIS bulletins (the second is available here) have increased scrutiny of, and jurisdiction questions concerning, the Postal Service’s involvement in law enforcement and surveillance operations. Chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and ranking member James Comer (R-KY) requested an Inspector General review of iCOP on May 25, 2021, following news reports that the program was monitoring American’s social media for “inflammatory” posts. 

For more weekend reading concerning the investigations made possible by the archived Parler data, see ProPublica’s January 17, 2021, visual investigation, “What Parler Saw During the Capitol Attack.” 

For more on the Postal Service’s surveillance programs, see the New York Times’ August 13, 2015, article, “Copy of Postal Service Audit Shows Extent of Mail Surveillance”. The article highlights a Postal Services Inspector General audit that was released through FOIA and that sheds light on another USPS surveillance program, called mail covers. The audit found that USPS didn’t maintain “sufficient controls” to ensure employees followed protocol for handling the mail covers and inspectors “failed to follow key safeguards in the gathering and handling of classified information.”

2021 Documents in Review: Earliest Known 2001 Afghanistan Strategy Paper

December 21, 2021

The National Security Archive is celebrating the end of 2021 by looking back to our most impactful postings of the year and highlighting the documents behind them. This week, we’re revisiting former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s declassified October 30, 2001, memo to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Doug Feith. Entitled “Strategy”, the memo, which concerned the U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan, was  featured in the Archive’s August 19, 2021, posting, Afghanistan 20/20: The 20-Year War in 20 Documents

The posting addresses the problems that bedeviled the American war in Afghanistan from its inception. Declassified documents made available through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and featured in the publication detail how the flawed American military strategy in Afghanistan was only further compounded by poor policy decisions. The posting includes declassified documents on: the early lack of “visibility into who the bad guys are;” Pakistan’s double game of taking U.S. aid while providing a sanctuary to the Taliban; “mission creep” as a counterterror effort against al-Qaeda morphed into a nation-building war against the Taliban; loss of attention to Afghanistan as the Bush administration invaded and occupied Iraq; endemic corruption; fake statistics and gassy metrics not only by the military but also the State Department, US AID, and their many contractors; mismatch between Afghan realities and American designs for a new centralized government and modernized army; and more. The information in the documents often contradicts public statements made by Department of Defense and White House officials over the twenty year conflict. 

Today’s document is an October 30, 2001, ‘snowflake’ memo authored by Rumsfeld and sent to his top policy aide, Doug Feith, detailing the first phase of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. The copy includes Rumsfeld’s personal handwritten edits, with a note to Feith that “The U.S. should not commit to any post-Taliban military involvement since the U.S. will be heavily engaged in the anti-terrorism effort worldwide.” The entirety of Rumsfeld’s ‘snowflake’ memos were released to the Archive following litigation with the Department of Defense with pro bono representation from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and are available to researchers through the Digital National Security Archive.

Happy holidays to all of our readers! 

2021 Documents in Review: Anatoly Chernyaev’s 1981 Diary

December 15, 2021

The National Security Archive is bringing 2021 to a close by revisiting our most significant postings and the documents behind them. This week, we are looking back at The Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev, 1981, translated and published in English for the first time in our May 25, 2021, posting, The Chernyaev Centennial.

The posting was published on Anatoly Sergeyevich Chernyaev’s 100th birthday and features the first English-language translation of the Chernyaev diary from 1981. Chernyaev was a trained historian, a combat veteran of World War II, a deeply literary member of the Moscow intelligentsia, and a high-level Central Committee official. Chernyaev also served as the national security adviser to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev from March 1986 through the end of the USSR in December 1991. From 1971 through 1991, Chernyaev put his most candid thoughts into his diary, written almost daily.

Today’s document, the 1981 diary, was written while Chernyaev was deputy director of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, and provides remarkable insights into the Brezhnev era at a crucial turning point – the first year of the Reagan administration. The diary sheds special light  on one of the most critical issues of the year: whether or not the Soviet Union would invade Poland to suppress the Solidarity movement. To Chernyaev, one important exception to general secretary Brezhnev’s inability to govern was the Soviet leader’s strong preference not to intervene militarily in the Polish crisis. Ultimately, the Soviet Union did not intervene, and this is now recognized as playing a central role in the end of Soviet rule in Poland in 1989. In perhaps the most remarkable passage from the 1981 diary, Chernyaev remarks, “if the Sovietologists and Kremlinologists’ fantasy came true and they got to be a fly on the wall at a session of our PB [Politburo], later nobody would ever believe this ‘fly.’ They would think he is fooling them or has lost his mind.” 

Chernyaev donated his diaries to the National Security Archive, where they have been translated and published into English. Nearly every English-language study of the late Soviet period has quotations from Archive translations of Chernyaev’s diary

Check back next week for more!

2021 Documents in Review: Earliest Known CIA Plot to Assassinate Raul Castro

December 10, 2021
tags: , ,

The National Security Security Archive is winding-up 2021 by highlighting the most important documents from our most popular postings. This week we’re looking back at the declassified Top Secret January 17, 1975, CIA memorandum, “Questionable Activities”, which was originally published in the Archive’s April 16, 2021, posting, CIA Assassination Plot Targeted Cuba’s Raul Castro.

The posting examines the earliest known CIA assassination plot against leaders of the Cuban revolution. In the 1975 plot, high-level CIA officials offered the pilot of a chartered Cubana Airlines plane carrying Raul Castro, brother to Fidel Castro, and other leaders of the Community Party of Cuba, “payment after successful completion of ten thousand dollars” to “incur risks in arranging accident” during the flight from Prague to Havana. The Cuban pilot, Jose Raul Martinez, who the CIA had earlier recruited as an intelligence asset, “asked for assurance that in the event of his [own] death the U.S. would see that his two sons were given a college education.” “This assurance was given,” his CIA handler in Havana, William J. Murray, reported. But after the pilot left for Prague, the CIA Havana station received an urgent cable from CIA Deputy Director of Plans, Stacy Barnes, to rescind the assassination plot – but were unable to further contact the pilot. 

Today’s document, a declassified January 17, 1975, TOP SECRET memorandum, was filed by William Murray with the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General. The document, which was declassified as part of the JFK Assassination Records Act and initially appeared in John Prados’ Digital National Security Archive collection, CIA Covert Operations II: The Year of Intelligence, 1975, details how Martinez agreed to “take a calculated risk but limited the possibilities which could pass as an accident.” Upon his return from Prague, Martinez was debriefed and reported, “he had no opportunity to arrange an accident such as we had discussed prior to his departure.” A lucky coincidence given the CIA had rescinded the plan.

This “accident plot” was obliquely described in the special Senate Committee report on Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, published  in 1976 after an investigation into CIA covert actions led by Senator Frank Church. The Church Committee report identified the plot as “the first action against the life of a Cuban leader sponsored by the CIA of which the Committee is aware”, but the Committee withheld—or perhaps was denied—key details, including that the would-be assassin was a pilot and the “accident” would involve a civilian airliner.

Check back next week for more!

2021 Documents in Review: Document Details Averted Meeting Between Kissinger and Argentina Military Ahead of 1976 Coup

December 3, 2021
tags:
Coup leaders Admiral Massera and General Videla.

The National Security Archive is wrapping up 2021 by looking back at some of our most impactful postings from the past year and highlighting the biggest documents behind them. This week we’re highlighting a declassified 1976 cable sent from Ambassador to Argentina, Robert Hill, to Acting Assistant Secretary of State Hewson Ryan. The cable warns against a potential meeting between Secretary Kissinger and Argentine military counterparts on the eve of the 1976 coup d’état against Isabel Perón as President of Argentina. The document was originally published in the Archive’s March 23, 2021, posting, Argentina’s Military Coup of 1976: What the U.S. Knew. 

Today’s highlighted posting was made possible by the Archive’s decades-long FOIA work to win the release of information on what the U.S. government knew about the March 24, 1976, overthrow of Isabel Peron’s government. The posting provides evidence of multiple contacts between the coup plotters and U.S. officials, though “there is no evidence that the U.S. instigated the coup,” said Carlos Osorio, Director of the National Security Archive Southern Cone Documentation Project. “But the United States accepted, and tacitly supported, regime change because Washington shared the military’s position that the putsch was the only alternative to chaos in Argentina.” Osorio noted that “U.S. officials wanted to believe that General Videla, the coup leader, was a moderate. The military dictatorship that followed killed and disappeared more than 20,000 people.”

Today’s document is a highly restricted cable sent to Acting Assistant Secretary of State Hewson Ryan (Assistant Secretary William Roger was traveling to Caracas) from Ambassador Robert Hill. The cable details an attempt by a claimed Argentine military representative to arrange a meeting with Kissinger ahead of the coup, as well as confirmation that third parties had already indicated that Washington would recognize a new government in Argentina following the coup. 

In the cable, Ambassador Hill reports that an American-Argentine citizen named “Carnicero” is trying to arrange a meeting between an Argentine military representative and Secretary Kissinger, “so that they can explain the political situation in Argentina.” As the cable continues, Ambassador Hill intervenes, stating: “I discouraged Carnicero from going forward with this idea.” The Ambassador says, “Such a meeting, should it become public knowledge, could be misinterpreted to the detriment of the officers themselves as well as of Secretary Kissinger. Further, I said, it seemed to me unnecessary. The embassy has discreetly and through third parties already indicated to the military that the USG will recognize a new govt in Argentina …” 

The cable ends with Ambassador Hill doubting the authenticity of the offer and questioning whether Carnicero is not actually a lone actor. Hill warns that Carnicero, “…may wish to demonstrate to the military how well-connected he is by suggesting and bringing about a meeting with Secretary Kissinger. Were this the military’s own idea, I believe they would have used other channels.” 

Check back next week for more! 

New DNSA Collection Documents CIA Covert Operations During The Eisenhower Years

December 1, 2021
tags: , ,

The National Security Archive, along with our scholarly partners at ProQuest, is publishing the
fourth of seven document installments on the CIA’s traditional method of intelligence gathering,
covert operations. The 1,824 document set, CIA Covert Operations IV: The Eisenhower Years,
1953-1962, features thousands of declassified documents detailing the extremely active period of
CIA clandestine missions throughout the Eisenhower presidency.

This consequential period includes the joint CIA-MI6 1953 coup in Iran, the 1954 overthrow of
the Jacobo Arbenz government in Guatemala, and operations against Cuba at the start of
the 1960s, just to name a few. Readers and researchers will also find government documents related to covert operations during the Korean War, and in Albania, Tibet, and the Dominican Republic.

The new publication adds to the National Security Archive’s growing document collection on
covert action, a singular resource for those studying the CIA. Previous publications available to
researchers include:

• CIA Covert Operations: From Carter to Obama, 1977-2010.
• CIA Covert Operations, Part II: The Year of Intelligence, 1975.
• CIA Covert Operations, Part III: From Kennedy to Nixon, 1961-1974.

Forthcoming installments in the CIA Covert Operations series will include documents on operations in Southeast Asia (Part V), the Truman era (Part VI), and the Congo (Part VII). All of the document collections have been curated by award-winning intelligence authority John Prados.

To read the latest release from the Digital National Security Archive through your local library,
or request a free institutional trial, click here.

2021 Documents in Review: Declassified State Department Review of the Havana Syndrome

November 19, 2021

The National Security Archive is concluding 2021 by reviewing some of our most impactful postings from the past year and highlighting the biggest documents behind them. This week we’re highlighting the State Department’s declassified June 2018 Accountability Review Board (ARB) report, which was originally published in the Archive’s February 10, 2021, posting, U.S.-Cuba: Secrets of the ‘Havana Syndrome’

Today’s highlighted posting provides unprecedented insight into the State Department’s internal investigation following the first reported cases of the Havana Syndrome in 2016, at which time American and Canadian personnel stationed in Havana, Cuba experienced unexplained cognitive and auditory dysfunction. As of today, as many as 200 cases have been reported at Embassies around the world as well as on U.S. soil, while the origin remains unknown. 

Today’s document, the heavily-redacted ARB report stamped SECRET/NOFORN, was released to the National Security Archive thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, and faults both the Department of State and the CIA in their responses to early cases of the Havana Syndrome at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba. The report is also the first official confirmation that the CIA closed down its Havana station and pulled its operatives out of Cuba in September 2017. In the report, the ARB criticized the CIA for failing to share information about the health-related experiences of its agents in Havana in late 2016 and early 2017, delaying the State Department’s ability to react quickly.

But the ARB faulted the failure of an organized response to the emerging crisis on multiple fronts, not just excessive CIA secrecy. The report found that “The Department of State’s response to these incidents was characterized by a lack of senior leadership, ineffective communications, and systemic disorganization.” Most notably, “The Board finds the lack of a designated official at the Under Secretary level to manage the response to be the single most significant deficiency in the Department’s response. To this day [June 2018]  no senior official at the Department has been assigned responsibility for leading and coordinating efforts to assess past incidents and prevent/mitigate future events. No Department of State task force was formed.” The ARB also concluded that Secretary Tillerson’s dramatic decision in late September 2017 to reduce the Havana Embassy staff by more than 60 percent and effectively shutter the U.S. Consulate appeared to have violated normal operating practice. 

Accountability Review Board procedures were mandated by Congress in 1986 to assist the State Department in addressing security challenges in the U.S. Embassies abroad. Under the law, a security-related incident involving an Embassy or its personnel triggers a convening of the Board, usually within 60 days of the incident, with a mandate to investigate what happened and recommend steps to safeguard against future incidents. In the case of Cuba, the Trump administration delayed convening the ARB until early 2018—doing so only after Senator Rubio warned that its inaction might violate the ARB statute. Chaired by Ambassador Peter Bodde, the five-member Board initiated its investigation in February 2018, interviewing 116 officials, traveling to Cuba, and reviewing documents over a four-month period. The ARB submitted its classified report to the Secretary of State in June 2018 – nearly a year and a half after the now declassified report states the first diplomat experienced symptoms of the Havana Syndrome in November 2016. 

Check back next week for more year-end highlights. 

2021 Documents in Review: State Department Employees Sign Dissent Channel Calling on Agency to Denounce January 6 Riot

November 12, 2021

The National Security Archive is wrapping up 2021 by looking back at some of our most impactful postings of the year and highlighting the biggest documents behind them. This week we’re highlighting the Department of State Dissent Channel message published in the Archive’s January 13, 2021 posting, The Capitol Riot: Documents You Should Read (Part 1).

The posting details the federal government’s immediate reaction following the violent attack on Congress and reveals multiple discrepancies between the public record and the Pentagon’s official timeline. The posting also began the Archive’s systematic campaign to use the FOIA to open the documentary record of what the government knew and when, and what the government did and didn’t do and when, about the mob attack on the Capitol.

Today’s document, the January 8 dissent channel message, was signed two days after the attack on Congress by over 100 Department of State employees. The text of the message, first published by Josh Rogin of the Washington Post on his Twitter feed, underscores the authors’ emphatic opposition to President Trump’s ongoing, baseless accusations of voter fraud during the 2020 election, and his incitement of the fatal mob attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. The authors call on the Department to “explicitly denounce President Trump’s role in this violent attack on the U.S. government.” The cable also states that the “Department’s public statements about this episode should also mention President Trump by name. It is critical that we communicate to the world that in our system, no one — not even the president — is above the law or immune from public criticism.”

The document is of particular interest for researchers interested in the history of the State Department. The Dissent Channel was created for State Department diplomats as a result of the US war in Vietnam to formally critique US policy and, according to Ambassador Thomas Boyatt, is the only place “In the US federal government (and probably the world)” where the institutionalization of dissent exists. Of additional historical value are the responses to the cables from the Director of Policy Planning for State, who is charged with “providing a substitutive reply, normally within 30-60 working days.” 

The unique records were withheld from public release for decades under FOIA’s “predecisional” Exemption 5 – that is until a National Security Archive lawsuit in 2018. The lawsuit leveraged the 2016 FOIA Improvement Act amendments that made it illegal for agencies to use this discretionary exemption after 25 years. Following passage of the FOIA Improvement Act, the National Security Archive requested key historical Dissent records and eventually litigated for their release with pro bono representation from Alex Haskell, Cliff Sloan, and Gregory Craig of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The Archive has since published key Dissent Channel cables and responses from policy planning staff. 

The text or existence of any Policy Planning response to the January 2021 Dissent has not yet been made public in response to an Archive FOIA request to the Department of State.

Check back next week for more!