30+ Years of Freedom of Information Action

CIA Releases Controversial Bay of Pigs History

Published: Oct 31, 2016
Briefing Book #564

Compiled and edited by Lauren Harper and Thomas Blanton

For further information, contact:
Thomas Blanton: 202.994.7000 and nsarchiv@gwu.edu

2016 Change in FOI Law Overturns Agency Stonewalling
CIA fought release for years, claimed draft would “confuse the public”
National Security Archive FOIA case prompted Congress’s 25-year sunset

CIA Releases Controversial Bay of Pigs History

Washington, D.C. October 31, 2016 - The CIA today released the long-contested Volume V of its official history of the Bay of Pigs invasion, which it had successfully concealed until now by claiming that it was a “draft” and could be withheld from the public under the FOIA’s "deliberative process" privilege. The National Security Archive fought the agency for years in court to release the historically significant volume, only to have the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2014 uphold the CIA’s overly-broad interpretation of the "deliberative process" privilege. Special credit for today’s release goes to the champions of the 2016 FOIA amendments, which set a 25-year sunset for the exemption:  Senators John Cornyn, Patrick Leahy, and Chuck Grassley, and Representatives Jason Chaffetz, Elijah Cummings, and Darrell Issa.

Chief CIA Historian David Robarge states in the cover letter announcing the document’s release that the agency is “releasing this draft volume today because recent 2016 changes in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires us to release some drafts that are responsive to FOIA requests if they are more than 25 years old.” This improvement – codified by the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 – came directly from the National Security Archive’s years of litigation.

The CIA argued in court for years – backed by Department of Justice lawyers – that the release of this volume, written by Agency historian Jack B. Pfeiffer, would “confuse the public.” National Security Archive Director Tom Blanton says, “Now the public gets to decide for itself how confusing the CIA can be.  How many thousands of taxpayer dollars were wasted trying to hide a CIA historian's opinion that the Bay of Pigs aftermath degenerated into a nasty internal power struggle?” Archive senior analyst and Cuba Project Director Peter Kornbluh notes, “We know now why the CIA attempted to cover up this document for so long. It is a vivid historical example of what Pfeiffer called ‘the agency's dirty linen’ that CIA officials never wanted to air in public."

 

READ THE DOCUMENTS

 

Volume V - New Release

2016-09-00
Document 01: CIA History Staff, Cover letter, David S. Robarge, CIA Chief Historian, “Context for Readers of the Attached CIA Draft Volume,” September 2016, Non-classified

1984-04-18
Document 02: CIA History Staff, Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation, Draft Volume V: “CIA’s Internal Investigation of the Bay of Pigs,” Jack B. Pfeiffer, April 18, 1984, Secret (with undated, unsigned cover sheet from J.K. McDonald, Chief, CIA History Staff, and three Top Secret appendices)

Volumes I, II, III, IV - Previously Released

1979-09-00
Document 03: CIA History Staff, Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation, Volume I: “Air Operations, March 1960 - April 1961," Jack B. Pfeiffer, September 1979, Top Secret

1979-10-00
Document 04: CIA History Staff, Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation, Volume II: “Participation in the Conduct of Foreign Policy,” Jack B. Pfeiffer, October 1979, Top Secret

1979-12-00
Document 05: CIA History Staff, Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation, Volume III: "Evolution of CIA's Anti-Castro Policies, 1951- January 1961,” Jack B. Pfeiffer, December 1979, Top Secret

1984-11-09
Document 06: CIA History Staff, Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation, Volume IV: “The Taylor Committee Investigation of the Bay of Pigs,” Jack B. Pfeiffer, November 9, 1984, Unclassified