Thursday, April 03, 2014

Declassification as Diplomacy

Peter Kornbluh writes about the 50th anniversary of the Brazilian coup (which of course the U.S. strongly supported) and "declassification diplomacy."

The U.S. government has, in fact, practiced the art of declassified diplomacy in a number of nations—reviewing and releasing thousands of records stored in the “secure compartmentalized information facilities” (SCIFS) of the CIA, the Defense and State Departments among other national security agencies—as diplomatic gestures, as well as to advance the pursuit of human rights, truth and justice. Like other foreign policy tools—economic aid, trade, and diplomatic support–these historical records can provide a potent contribution to advance U.S. interests in stability and a peaceful and more just global community.

I was aware of the timing of the Chilean declassification but hadn't thought about it in a more comparative context. And I didn't know this:

In Ecuador, for example, despite tensions with the populist government of Rafael Correa, the administration of George W. Bush made an important gesture of a special declassification of State Department records to assist the Ecuadoran truth commission.

So it even trumped ideology, which saturated the Bush administration. It would be fun to see what patterns are there--when does this happen and why? What is it intended to accomplish? In general it seems a very low cost but potentially high impact endeavor. There is no good reason to keep 50 year old documents secret--they remain classified just to prevent powerful people and institutions from getting embarrassed by their lies, poor judgment and callous indifference to human life.


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