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Presidential Memo “Effectively Amends” EO 13526: FRINFORMSUM 5/30/2019

May 30, 2019

Trump Memo “Effectively Amends” EO 13526 to Transfer Limited DNI Authority to AG Barr

President Trump recently signed a presidential memo that “effectively amends” Executive Order 13526 on classification of national security information to grant Attorney General William Barr the “authority of the Director of National Intelligence to declassify intelligence information concerning the 2016 election.” Steve Aftergood reported the change on his Secrecy News blog, and notes that while the presidential memorandum only applies to AG Barr and not his successors, “the move represents a functional demotion of the Director of National Intelligence and a partial transfer of his authority to the Attorney General.” No explanation was given for the change and it is unclear whether the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), which is responsible for the government-wide security classification system, was consulted.

Mar a Lago Intruder Had No Trouble Getting Past Secret Service

An 18-year-old college student staying at a neighboring resort had no trouble getting by the Secret Service and into Mar-a-Lago while the President was staying there for Thanksgiving, according to court documents. The student, Mark Lindblom, was sentenced to a year probation and a $25 fine for “entering or remaining in a restricted building.” The security lapse comes a month after a Chinese national carrying a thumb drive full of malware was allowed to enter the club. The recent security incidents are especially troubling considering revelations made during the National Security Archive’s lawsuit for access to the White House visitor logs – that “There is no system for keeping track of Presidential visitors at Mar-a-Lago.”

Inside Argentina’s Killing Machine: U.S. Intelligence Documents Record Gruesome Human Rights Crimes of 1976-1983

On August 20, 1976, Argentine security personnel dynamited the bodies of thirty people – ten women and twenty men – who had been detained by the Federal Police and executed in the town of Pilar, north of Buenos Aires. The explosion scattered human remains over a wide radius. This gruesome display of repression was intended to send a bloody message to other alleged militants to cease their activities five months after the military coup, according to a CIA intelligence report, one of two dozen extraordinary records posted today by the National Security Archive. But military junta leader General Rafael Videla was “annoyed that the bodies were left so prominently displayed,” sources told the CIA, because it “reflects adversely on the good name of Argentina.” Not that Videla opposed the mass murders, noted the CIA. “Videla is in agreement that subversives should be killed, but [believes] that the entire matter should be dealt with discreetly.”

“These documents provide a riveting account of the Argentine military’s killing machine and its campaign to kidnap, clandestinely detain, torture, kill, and disappear thousands,” said the Archive’s Carlos Osorio. Today’s posting is a small selection from a special “Argentina Declassification Project” authorized by President Barack Obama in connection with the 40th anniversary of the military coup in 2016 and completed by the Trump administration in April 2019. It is incredibly rare to see the CIA cables in particular, the likes of which the agency regularly hides behind its Operational Files exemption. A final, historic transfer of 7,500 CIA, FBI, DOD, NSC, and State Department records to the Argentine government took place on April 12, 2019.

Imminent Threat to Guatemala’s Historical Archive of the National Police (AHPN)

The National Security Archive joins our international and Guatemalan colleagues in calling for the protection of the Historical Archive of the National Police (AHPN) of Guatemala, which faces new threats to its independence and to public access to its holdings. In a press conference on Monday, May 27, Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart signaled his intent to assert his agency’s control of the AHPN including the prospect of new restrictions on access to the archived police records and possible legal action against “foreign institutions” holding digitized copies of the documents. Degenhart made his statements as a crucial deadline approached to renew an agreement that for a decade has kept the archive under the authority of the Ministry of Culture and Sports. The agreement now appears to be in jeopardy.

The hollowing out of the AHPN is taking place at a time when justice and human rights initiatives are broadly under siege in Guatemala and follows months of uncertainty for the celebrated human rights archive, which has been institutionally adrift since its long-time director, Gustavo Meoño Brenner, was abruptly dismissed in August 2018.

Get the whole story here and learn how to take action to support the AHPN.

TBT Pick – The Guatemalan Police Archives

This week’s #TBT pick is a 2005 posting on the discovery of the Guatemalan Police Archives. As the Archive’s Guatemala Documentation Project director Kate Doyle wrote, “On July 5, officials from the Guatemalan government’s human rights office (PDH – Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos) entered a deteriorating, rat-infested munitions depot in downtown Guatemala City to investigate complaints about improperly-stored explosives. During inspection of the site, investigators found a vast collection of documents, stored in five buildings and in an advanced state of decay. The files belonged to the National Police, the central branch of Guatemala’s security forces during the war – an entity so inextricably linked to violent repression, abduction, disappearances, torture and assassination that the country’s 1996 peace accord mandated it be completely disbanded and a new police institution created in its stead.

The scope of this find is staggering – PDH officials estimate that there are 4.5 kilometers – some 75 million pages – of materials. During a visit to the site in early August, I saw file cabinets marked ‘assassinations,’ ‘disappeared’ and ‘homicides,’ as well as folders labeled with the names of internationally-known victims of political murder, such as anthropologist Myrna Mack (killed by security forces in 1990).”

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