Thursday, July 05, 2012

Uruguay and Yossarian

Nate Jones at the National Security Archive has a blog post about declassifying documents related to U.S.-Uruguayan relations in the 1970s. Not too surprisingly, the U.S. government is not anxious to provide much, and what it does provide is heavily censored.

At a minimum, declassification reviewers are required to complete a “line by line” review for segregability.  It appears DiPaolo may have attempted to save herself some time by simply censoring every paragraph marked classified (the entire comments section), rather than actually reviewing it for potential “identifiable and describable damage.”  This is a common –and incorrect– practice by declassification reviewers, government-wide.

Immediately this made me think of the novel Catch-22, where Yossarian's job is to censor soldiers' letters. He developed arbitrary ways of doing so as a way to amuse himself.

When he had exhausted all possibilities in the letters, he began attacking the names and addresses on the envelopes, obliterating whole homes and streets, annihilating entire metropolises with careless flicks of his wrist as though he were God. Catch-22 required that each censored letter bear the censoring officers name. Most letters he didnt read at all. On those he didnt read at all he wrote his own name. On those he did read he wrote, Washington Irving. When that grew monotonous he wrote, Irving Washington. Censoring the envelopes had serious repercussions, produced a ripple of anxiety on some ethereal military echelon that floated a C.I.D. man back into the ward posing as a patient. They all knew he was a C.I.D. man because he kept inquiring about an officer named Irving or Washington and because after his first day there he wouldnt censor letters. He found them too monotonous.

At least, though, I was glad to read in the blog post that the State Department actually has a good record of declassification, including this one.


Justin Delacour 11:43 PM  

Has there been a stated rationale as to why the U.S. government feels it cannot divulge details about its relationship with governments of the Southern Cone in the 1970s?

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