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Kissinger “Apoplectic” Over Castro’s Intervention in Angola, EO12333 Governs Most NSA Spying, CIA Says it Only Misused FOIA Exemption Because it was in a Hurry, and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 10/2/2014

October 2, 2014

backchannel-final-jacket-3-18-14A new book co-authored by Archivist Peter Kornbluh and American University professor William M. LeoGrande reveals that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was so “irked” by Fidel Castro’s intervention in Angola in 1975, that he drew up plans to possibly “smash” and “clobber” Cuba. Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana uses documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act to show, among other revelations, that Kissinger ordered a series of secret contingency plans, which included airstrikes and mining of Cuban harbors, in the aftermath of Cuba’s decision to intervene militarily in Angola. The book describes Kissinger as “apoplectic” with Castro — in oval office meetings Kissinger referred to the Cuban leader as a “pipsqueak.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently posted documents obtained through FOIA litigation to its website showing that the legal basis for most of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance is the Reagan-era EO 12333. Although the new documents show the NSA relies on EO 12333 more than either section 215 or the FISA Amendment Acts for its spying, to date, congressional reform intended to curtail the NSA’s bulk surveillance has not addressed the Order. The ACLU notes, “Because the executive branch issued and now implements the executive order all on its own, the programs operating under the order are subject to essentially no oversight from Congress or the courts.”

Joseph W. Lambert, Director of CIA Information Management Services, said the CIA made an error when it redacted how much the agency paid for its first Amiga computer in 1987. The CIA initially redacted the information from a Studies in Intelligence article it released in response to a FOIA lawsuit brought by former agency employee and IT expert, Jeffrey Scudder. To redact the information the CIA cited the b(3) “black hole” FOIA exemption, which concerns “intelligence sources and methods.” The Moynihan Commission noted the exemption was invoked too broadly and required clarification in 1997, a recommendation reiterated by the Public Interest Declassification Board in its 2012 report to the president. After receiving significant press attention for the needless redaction, however, Lambert said the agency was just in a rush to meet the court deadline in the Scudder case and would re-post the document without the b(3) redaction.


NARA appraisal of CIA email destruction proposal.

The CIA proposed, and NARA “tentatively” agreed, to be granted the authority to destroy all emails sent by non-senior officials at the agency. The proposal, now open for public comment, was announced in the Federal Register on September 17  — just one day before the agency posted a trove of articles to its website only after a District Court judge admonished it for erecting needless and lengthy hurdles to its electronic records. The NARA appraisal that accompanies the proposal to destroy the records notes, “any permanently valuable material in the emails would almost certainly be captured in other permanent CIA records.” The CIA’s current policy is to print and manually file valuable emails, rather than simply save them in their current, electronic format.

An interagency review is underway of a White House directive that would require all federal agencies to disclose where in the U.S. they fly drones and what they do with the data the drones collect. The directive would have the biggest impact on the Pentagon, which conducts drone-training flights over most states, and the Department of Homeland Security, whose drones constantly survey the U.S. border.

The FBI recently released hundreds of pages of records on Samir Khan, a North Carolina man killed in the same 2011 CIA drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. The documents were released in response to Jason Leopold’s FOIA request, and show the FBI began monitoring Khan in the mid-2000s for making extremist comments and posts on his blog, Inshallahshaheed. Former bureau agent Michael German said the files “give us an idea of the [intelligence collection capabilities] the FBI has at its fingertips…They had access to his wage and employment records. It’s certainly interesting in terms of shedding light on the type of information the FBI can obtain. It raises more questions than answers.”

Photo courtesy of Foreign Policy.

Photo courtesy of Foreign Policy.

Despite claims the al-Qaeda cell Khorasan poses a “credible” threat to the U.S., the Obama administration’s National Terrorism Advisory System (NATS) has issued no security warnings. In fact, the two-tiered warning system, which replaced the Bush-era five-tone color-coded system and is tasked with providing “the American public with information about credible threats so that they can better protect themselves, their families, and their communities,” has never issued a warning. A report by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance noted, “It is particularly advisable to review whether the narrow focus on counterterrorism and the high threshold for issuance makes the NTAS an ineffective tool for communicating useful information to the public.”

Open government advocates sent a letter to the White House asking for clarification on the Craig Memorandum, a 2009 memo that demands agencies “consult with White House counsel before releasing any [FOIA] documents that might involve ‘White House equities,’” though it did not specify what White House equities are.

McClatchy obtained a new Director of National Intelligence policy that orders agencies conducting polygraph tests to ask interviewees to disclose if they have ever leaked classified information to the media. The policy, obtained through the FOIA, is “striking because it elevates leaking of classified information to the same level as espionage and sabotage.”

Archivist Kate Doyle, in collaboration with the University of Washington Center for Human Rights and the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG), has posted the Libro Amarillo, or Yellow Book, along with related analysis and declassified U.S. documents. The Yellow Book is “the first-ever confidential Salvadoran military document to be made public, and the only evidence to appear from the Salvadoran Army’s own files of the surveillance methods used by security forces to target Salvadoran citizens during the country’s 12-year civil war.” The Book “identifies almost two thousand Salvadoran citizens who were considered ‘delinquent terrorists’ by the Armed Forces,” including the current president, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, as well as human rights advocates, labor leaders, and political figures, many of whom were subject to illegal detention and torture.


Today’s #tbt document pick is chosen to honor both President Carter’s 90th birthday and to celebrate the release of Back Channel to Cuba. Today’s document is the Secret March 15, 1977, Presidential Directive/NSC-6, in which Carter wrote, “I have concluded that we should attempt to achieve normalization of our relations with Cuba.”

Happy FOIA-ing!

One Comment
  1. margieb32 permalink
    October 3, 2014 6:03 am

    Good one Peter! You and Malcolm are on a book-publishing roll–faster than my limited budget can keep up with. Bravo.

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