from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2014, Issue No. 29
April 16, 2014
Secrecy News Blog: http://blogs.fas.org/secrecy/
- HISTORY OF 1953 CIA COVERT ACTION IN IRAN TO BE PUBLISHED
- US PRISONS ARE BURSTING AT THE SEAMS, AND MORE FROM CRS
HISTORY OF 1953 CIA COVERT ACTION IN IRAN TO BE PUBLISHED
In 1989, the Department of State published a notorious volume that purported to document U.S. foreign policy towards Iran in the early Eisenhower Administration. The volume triggered an avalanche of criticism because it omitted any mention of the CIA's role in a 1953 covert action that helped overthrow the government of Iran.
Later this year, after the passage of more than two decades, the State Department will rectify that error by publishing a supplemental volume of declassified documents in its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series that is expected to fill in the missing pieces of the documentary record of the 1953 coup against the Mossadeq government of Iran.
The publication of the 1989 Iran volume was a milestone in the history of U.S. government secrecy that prompted widespread outrage and ridicule, but it also inspired remedial efforts that had some lasting impact.
The episode was recounted in detail in an impressive history of the FRUS series that was also published by the State Department last year (Chapter 10).
"FRUS historians could have been more assertive in their efforts to promote greater openness in the 1980s," the FRUS history candidly observed. "They should have recognized that the Iran volume was too incomplete to be published without damaging the series's reputation, consulted with stakeholders across the government and the academic community, and devised alternatives to releasing an unacceptable volume."
Ironically, the defects in the official Iran history generated more broad public attention to questions of diplomatic history than the subject had received for many years.
"The ostensibly authoritative" FRUS volume on Iran "is 'Hamlet' without the Prince of Denmark -- or the ghost," the New York Times editorialized in 1990.
"We are poisoning the wells of our historical memory," wrote Senator Daniel P. Moynihan in the New York Review of Books at the time. "The secrecy system has gone loony."
On the plus side, the scandal over the Iran history galvanized efforts by historians and others to demand a higher standard of fidelity in official history. Those efforts led directly to the enactment of a 1991 statute dictating that the Foreign Relations of the United States series shall provide "a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity."
The forthcoming publication of the FRUS retrospective volume on Iran was noted in a new annual report from the State Department Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation.
It was confirmed by Historian of the State Department, Dr. Stephen Randolph, who told Secrecy News that the volume was expected to be released this summer, barring unforeseen events, along with another long-deferred collection on Chile, 1969-1973.
An initial selection of recently declassified CIA records on the 1953 coup with related background material was posted last year by the National Security Archive.
"The issue is more than academic," wrote the Archive's Malcolm Byrne. "Political partisans on all sides, including the Iranian government, regularly invoke the coup to argue whether Iran or foreign powers are primarily responsible for the country's historical trajectory, whether the United States can be trusted to respect Iran's sovereignty, or whether Washington needs to apologize for its prior interference before better relations can occur."
US PRISONS ARE BURSTING AT THE SEAMS, AND MORE FROM CRS
The U.S. federal prison population has been growing steadily for decades, and it now exceeds the capacity of the prison system to properly house and maintain it, according to an updated report from the Congressional Research Service on the Bureau of Prisons [BOP].
"The number of inmates under the BOP's jurisdiction has increased nearly eight-fold (790%) from approximately 24,600 inmates in FY1980 to nearly 219,300 inmates in FY2013. Since FY1980, the federal prison population has increased, on average, by approximately 5,900 inmates each year," the report said. "The annual growth in the federal prison population has outstripped the BOP's prison capacity, resulting in overcrowding in the federal prison system."
The CRS report identified various options for Congress to address the situation, whether by expanding prison capacity or by reducing the prison population through alternatives to incarceration. See "The Bureau of Prisons (BOP): Operations and Budget," March 4, 2014:
Other new and updated CRS reports that Congress has withheld from online public access include the following.
Congress's Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure, April 10, 2014:
Congress's Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: A Sketch, April 10, 2014:
The Article V Convention to Propose Constitutional Amendments: Contemporary Issues for Congress, April 11, 2014:
Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits, April 9, 2014:
Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress, March 19, 2014:
Campaign Contribution Limits: Selected Questions About McCutcheon and Policy Issues for Congress, April 7, 2014:
What Is the Farm Bill?, April 7, 2014:
The Federal Budget: Overview and Issues for FY2015 and Beyond, April 11, 2014:
U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel, April 11, 2014:
Security Assistance Reform: "Section 1206" Background and Issues for Congress, April 4, 2014:
Implementation of Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS): Issues for Congress, April 2, 2014:
Brazil: Political and Economic Situation and U.S. Relations, March 27, 2014:
Bee Health: Background and Issues for Congress, April 9, 2014:
The Distribution of Household Income and the Middle Class, March 10, 2014:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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