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Guatemalan President Shuts Down UN-Backed Anti-Corruption Probe, Taliban Confirm Haqqani Death, and More: FRINFORMSUM 9/6/2018

September 6, 2018

Guatemalan President Shuts Down UN-Backed Anti-Corruption Probe

Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales recently announced he will not renew the mandate of the UN-backed anti-corruption probe, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala. The Commission (commonly referred to by its Spanish acronym CICIG) has already racked up over 300 convictions, two former presidents are in jail as a result, and Morales and his National Convergence Front are under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office as a result of CICIG’s work. Morales is currently shielded by presidential immunity, but “following a petition by the Attorney General’s Office, a commission is currently working to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to remove the president’s immunity.”

The National Security Archive’s Kate Doyle spoke with NPR about what this means for justice and judicial reform in Guatemala, arguing “President Morales’ decision to cancel the mandate of CICIG and essentially order its investigations to come to a grinding halt is a terrible blow to the progress that Guatemala has made in justice.”

Visit the Archive’s Guatemala documentation page for more information.

Jalaluddin Haqqani

Taliban Confirm Death of Jalaluddin Haqqani – 4 Years After Death Suspected

The Taliban have announced the death of Haqqani Network patriarch Jalaluddin Haqqani. The news confirms Afghan officials’ assertions that Haqqani has been dead for “at least four years – an assertion confirmed by one aide to Mr. Haqqani in 2015.” There is speculation that the announcement was intended to coincide with the arrival of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other American military officials in Pakistan to discuss an end to the war in Afghanistan.

The Haqqani Network traditionally acted as a somewhat autonomous affiliate of the Taliban rather than a subsidiary– a separation evidenced in part by the fact that the State Department declared the Haqqani Network a Foreign Terrorist Organization but not the Taliban. Recently, however, the separation appears to have disappeared, and Jalaluddin’s son Sirajuddin is both the Haqqani Network leader as well as the deputy emir of the Taliban.

More on the history of the Haqqani network, informed by FOIA releases to the National Security Archive, can be found here and here.

FOIAonline Glitch Publishes Dozens of Social Security Numbers

FOIAonline made public dozens of social security numbers and other personally identifiable information during a July software update that transitioned the portal from its 2.0 version to the 3.0. The information was removed a month later after a reader tipped off CNN, prompting the news agency to notify the government about the inappropriate postings.

FOIAonline, maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, is the FOIA portal used by over a dozen agencies and components, including the National Archives and Records Administration and the Department of Justice’s Office on Information Policy. While the EPA fixed the glitch, it remains up to individual agencies to properly input information into the system, and there is no disclaimer for those who use the FOIA portal to keep sensitive information out of their FOIA requests.

Interior Dept. Photographer Crops Inauguration Photo at President Trump’s Request 

A FOIA release from the Office of the Inspector General at the Interior Department shows that a departmental employee “edited official pictures of Donald Trump’s inauguration to make the crowd appear bigger following a personal intervention from the president.” The Guardian reports, “The records detail a scramble within the National Park Service (NPS) on 21 January 2017 after an early-morning phone call between Trump and the acting NPS director, Michael Reynolds. They also state that Sean Spicer, then White House press secretary, called NPS officials repeatedly that day in pursuit of the more flattering photographs.”

The recently released records were not included in the report on the inauguration photo kerfuffle that the Interior Department’s IG released last year.

TBT Pick – “Jalaluddin Haqqani’s Emergence As a Key Taliban Commander”

This week’s #TBT pick is chosen with the Taliban’s recent admission of Jalaluddin Haqqani’s death in mind. It is an unclassified January 7, 1997 State Department cable – released in response to a National Security Archive FOIA request and analyzed by Archivist Barbara Elias – on the elder Haqqani’s rise in the Taliban. The cable reports him to be “more liberal” in his opinions on social policy, such as women’s rights, than other Taliban officials. But he did not seem to have the political clout to influence social policy. Haqqani nevertheless remained respected as a competent and influential officer in Taliban military affairs. His ties to “various radical Arab groups,” concern the Department of State, as one source reports that “in exchange for weapons and money… [he is] offering shelter for various Arabs in areas of Paktia province.”

Elias is quick to point out that, between 1986 and 1994, Haqqani was a “unilateral” CIA asset. Steve Coll’s The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century, notes during that time “he received tens of thousands of dollars in cash directly from CIA officers working undercover in Pakistan, without any mediation by Pakistani intelligence, which normally handled and relayed the great majority of CIA funds to the Afghans.” Haqqani’s relationship with the US deteriorated in the late-1990s after the US bombed an HQN-linked training camp in retaliation for al-Qaida attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Coll notes Haqqani’s relationship with bin Laden deepened after the US bombings, and he “helped and protected Osama [bin Laden] and the Arab volunteers as they built their nascent militia. (Osama later referred to Haqqani as a “hero mujahid sheikh”…)… Osama would have had no reason to know about Haqqani’s opportunistic work with the CIA, but he and his Arab volunteers benefited from it.”

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