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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where are the Original Seized Grenada Documents?

Two interesting new developments related to documents seized by U.S. forces in Grenada in 1983 during Operation Urgent Fury - one is a fully declassified National Security Directive newly available online and the second are meeting notes recently obtained via FOIA that indicate that at least some original documents from Grenada remain at the U.S. National Archives.  But first a quick administrative note: beginning with this post I am experimenting with enabling comments at the bottom of the post after receiving requests from some readers.

(1) Reagan's Fully Declassified National Security Decision Directive No. 112 Now Available Online

A big thanks to Steven Aftergood who alerted me to a new, fully declassified version of a November 1983 National Security Decision Directive signed by President Ronald Reagan called "Processing and Disposition of Documents Acquired by US Forces in Grenada" that is now available online from the Federation of American Scientists here.


An earlier redacted version that has been online for years (available here) already provided an interesting illustration of the breadth of issues for which the captured documents from Grenada were thought to be relevant.  The three paragraphs that were redacted in the earlier version, but which are available now, relate to the following issues:

First, is the issue of U.S. classified documents found among the documents captured in Grenada:


This may have been redacted given that such documents could present special sensitivities as they could be relevant to counterintelligence investigations, including the possibility that someone within the U.S. government had provided access to them.  A related issue came up when the interagency intelligence exploitation team -- assembled pursuant to Reagan's directive -- submitted its initial evaluation of the captured documents in December 1983.  In the last paragraph of a cover memo (available here) from Robert Gates, then Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, to Robert MacFarlane, then Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Gates noted:
Mr. Roy Godson of your staff informed us that there was great interest in the "American" connection to the documents. We have discussed this with the FBI liaison contact and propose that you task the Attorney General directly with pursuing this issue. We do not think a discussion of the involvement of US citizens in Grenada should be included in any paper prepared by the Intelligence Community.
The initial version of the "Interagency Intelligence Assessment" enclosed with that memo entitled "Grenada: A First Look at Mechanisms of Control and Foreign Involvement" is here and a later updated version from August 1984 is here (both courtesy of the CIA FOIA reading room).

Second, there is a previously redacted paragraph dealing with the interesting topic of forensic examination of the captured documents including even the type of paper and ink used:


This provides another example of a situation in which copies of captured documents are inadequate substitutes for originals. As discussed in an earlier post, the forensic exploitation of captured documents and media has been increasing in importance over time.  See, as an example, this FBI  Laboratory report from 2008 about documents seized from Afghanistan.

Third, the final, previously-redacted paragraph relates to the question of returning the documents:


The issue of the return of the documents leads to the second development . . .

(2) Original Seized Grenada Documents Still at U.S. National Archives?


The original documents seized in Grenada were, according to everything I had ever seen, returned to Grenada long ago.  No less than The Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States expressly states in a note in RG 373: "The original Grenada documents have been returned to the Grenadan government" (microfiche copies are in RG 242).  There has been a bit of a mystery about what happened to them upon their return - see, for example, the Grenada Revolution Online's informative page on the documents here which states: 
Rumor at one point put the original Grenada documents in Grenada around August 1985 and housed at Police Headquarters. Since that time was the damaging passing over Grenada of Hurricane Ivan, 7 September 2004. The location, condition and accession of the original Grenada Documents remains obscured, to say the least.
Given this, it came as quite a surprise when I recently received some documents via FOIA that included notes from recent meetings involving the National Archives that contained notations such as this:


and this:


which appear to indicate that there are original Grenada records at Archives II in College Park.  The note "why are the originals here" even suggests some surprise on behalf of the undisclosed notetaker.

To be clear, this is not necessarily inconsistent with the return of most, if not almost all, of the originals to Grenada. The notes above could perhaps be referring to a small number of documents that may have been withheld from the original return -- possibly for some of the same reasons the passages in Reagan's directive had been redacted or based on other "national security" concerns.  There is also a State Department records schedule, N1-353-90-3 (available here), related to a "Grenada Task Force" that identifies "3-4 feet" of captured documents (perhaps original) that were transferred to NARA, which could provide another explanation:


Despite these possible explanations, the notes nevertheless raise some interesting questions that would profit from clarification. If anyone has additional information about original Grenada documents in the U.S. or the fate of those returned to Grenada, I'd be grateful to hear from you.

Friday, December 14, 2012

DIA's New RFI for "Technical Exploitation Support"

Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room has a post called "SpyPhone: Pentagon Spooks Want New Tools for Mobile 'Exploitation'" (available here) that focuses on an interesting new Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Request for Information (RFI) up on the Federal Business Opportunities website called "Technical Exploitation Support."


Ackerman's discussion of the RFI begins:
The Pentagon wants to upgrade its spy corps. And one of its first jobs will be finding out what’s on your iPhone.
If the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) gets its way, it’ll send an expanded cadre of spies around the world to scope out threats to the U.S. military. And it won’t just be a larger spy team, it’ll be a geekier one. The DIA wants “technical exploitation” tools that can efficiently access the data of people the military believes to be dangerous once their spies collect it.
 Ackerman notes that one of the areas stressed in the RFI is
“captured/seized media.” Think, for instance, of all the flash drives, hard drives and CDs that Navy SEALs seized during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Flynn wants to understand both the text they’d contain, through “automation support to enable rapid triage,” and their subtexts or metadata, using “steganography” tools to decipher coded messages and “deep analysis of malicious code/executables.” And that’s on top of “deep hardware exploitation of complex media with storage capacity” and reverse-engineering tools “to discover firmware artifacts.”
The RFI's own summary notes:
The broad objective of this requirement is to provide exploitation capabilities and technical support services to Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX) programs for the collection and dissemination of intelligence. This objective is completed by acquiring electronic media devices; conduct screening and exploitation of these devices, in addition to translate, analyze, and report on the information/intelligence derived from these devices. Finally reports must be created and database records ingested into local and national databases; both and made readily available to analysts from the tactical to national levels.
The full RFI is available from the FedBizOpps.gov website, but as it will eventually disappear from there, I have re-posted it here. Responses are due by January 4, 2013.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Conference at Columbia: "Local Memory, Global Ethics, Justice"

The Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability (AHDA), part of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University is holding a four-day conference from Dec. 11-14, 2012 entitled "Local Memory, Global Ethics, Justice: The Politics of Historical Dialogue in Contemporary Society."  The website for the conference (including registration, which is free) is here and the full schedule, which includes a wide variety of interesting topics, is here.  From the conference announcement:
Historical dialogue and accountability is a growing field of advocacy and scholarship that encompasses the efforts in conflict, post-conflict, and post-dictatorial societies to come to terms with their pasts. In contesting nationalist myths and identities; in examining official historical narratives; and in opening them to competing narratives, historical dialogue seeks to provide analysis of past violence grounded in empirical research; to acknowledge the victims of past violence and human rights abuses; to challenge and deconstruct national, religious, or ethnic memories of heroism and/or victimhood; to foster shared work between interlocutors of two or more sides of a conflict; to identify and monitor how history is misused to divide society and perpetuate conflict; and to enhance public discussion about the past.
This conference seeks to consider related questions, in addition to discussing the state of the relatively new field of historical dialogue and its relationship to other discourses such as transitional justice, memory studies, oral history, historical redress and religious studies. We will address the possibilities and limits of these concepts and methods, searching for unexplored connections and elaborating upon how historical analysis can be used to resolve long-standing sectarian conflicts. 
I will be on a panel on the first day called "Sequestered History, Public History" and will be giving a presentation called "Captured Documents, Sequestered History and Displaced Memory."


New Details from Iraqi National Archives

Leonard Kniffel has a piece in American Libraries magazine on continuing security problems at the Iraq National Library and Archives called "Terror Has Not Withdrawn: Daily Life for Librarians in Iraq" available here.  Near the end of the piece there are a couple of new details about the issue of seized records and Ba'ath party materials and information from the Director of the National Archives Saad Eskander.

Regarding negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq over the possible return of seized records (see some earlier coverage here), Kniffel notes:
The Iraqi government recently formed an intergovernmental committee to look into the issue of the records seized by the US government. The committee is headed by the deputy minister of foreign affairs, and its members include representatives from the Ministry of Culture (including Eskander), the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, and the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers. The committee has formed a three-member team that will negotiate with the US government. Eskander is also a member of that negotiation team.
Kniffel also notes that despite budget cuts and "amid the terror and turmoil," the archival collections at the National Archives have grown by 25%.  He quotes Eskander stating, "This is due to the fact I managed to persuade some Iraqi political parties to hand over to us the library of the Baath Party's training school" which "includes publications in Arabic, English, and French."

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Lost to History: Missing War Records" - ProPublica & Seattle Times

In case you missed it, Peter Sleeth from ProPublica and Hal Bernton of The Seattle Times have an important two-part piece on the U.S. military's failure to create or maintain adequate records of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the consequences, both personal and historical, of that failure. The first part (available here) is called "Lost to History: Missing War Records Complicate Benefit Claims by Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans" and the second part (here) is "A Son Lost in Iraq, but Where is the Casualty Report?"

The reporting relies, in part, on some fascinating government documents and reports including this brief on a "GWOT [Global War on Terrorism] Archive Project" and this 2009 Army "information paper" on "Army Operational Records" that begins by noting that the "long-term ability of an Army to learn from its experiences, prepare effective doctrine, adequately train and care for its Soldiers, and generate an able and ready force requires that it develop methods and procedures to capture its own operational data" and later states that between 2004 and 2007 "very few Operation ENDURING FREEDOM records were saved anywhere, either for historian's use or for the services documentary needs for unit heritage or for the increasing challenge with documenting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)."

The pieces provide a powerful example of the too-often-ignored importance of recordkeeping.

Friday, November 9, 2012

2011 Al-Qaeda Captured Records Conference Proceedings Volume

In September 2011 the Conflict Records Research Center and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies held a conference called "Ten Years Later: Insights on al-Qaeda's Past & Future Through Captured Records."  I had earlier this year posted this initial conference report, but had not noticed that a full conference proceedings volume was subsequently published.

The full volume, which is edited by Lorry Fenner, Mark Stout, and Jessica Goldings, is available here in a web-based reader (you can also download the full publication from this page, although registration is required).

I've posted a copy of the table of contents below.





Table of contents page 1:



and page 2:












Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Aftergood on "Document Collector Charged Under Espionage Statute"

Steven Aftergood at Secrecy News has a fascinating, must-read piece called "Document Collector Charged Under Espionage Statute" (available here, read it), describing the case of James F. Hitselberger, who is apparently charged with "unlawful retention of national defense information" for allegedly having classified documents in his living quarters while working for the Navy as a contract linguist in Bahrain. Hitsleberger is not accused of trying to provide the documents to any foreign government.  Instead, Aftergood describes Hitselberger as a "peripatetic collector of rare documents" who has a collection in his name at the Hoover Institution that has been open for research and that has also allegedly been found to contain classified material.

Case files for the Hitselberger case are helpfully posted here and AP has picked up on Aftergood's coverage here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Captured Documents as Evidence in Counterinsurgency Operations

Major Andrew R. Atkins of the U.S. Army has a great new article in the Military Law Review entitled "Doctrinally Accounting for Host Nation Sovereignty During U.S. Counterinsurgency Security Operations" available here.  Major Atkins argues for revisions to Army Field Manual 3-24 -- the so-called Counterinsurgency Manual (available here thanks to the Federation of American Scientists) -- to reflect more clearly and accurately the importance of host nation law in counterinsurgency operations.

Major Atkins places special emphasis on the need to expand the focus of U.S. counterinsurgency policy to reflect the primacy of host nation law (especially domestic criminal law) in circumstances in which U.S. forces are deployed to "support a sovereign host nation government" in a non-international armed conflict against insurgents within that country.  In particular, Major Atkins stresses that in these circumstances the standards for detention of insurgents is primarily governed by domestic criminal law which often provides stricter, more exacting standards and requirements for evidence than more traditional wartime military detention.

Of particular relevance to this blog is the implications of the argument for the importance of careful collection and handling of captured documents.  Major Atkins in fact specifically suggests adding a new sentence to FM 3-24 that would state, in relevant part:
captured documents, and captured equipment may yield information usable as evidence during the host nation's criminal prosecution of the captured insurgent.  Units may have to specially train and task organize capture forces to ensure the identification, collection, and safeguarding of information and items at the point of capture for use in host nation criminal justice proceedings.
Major Atkins notes that such an amendment "[e]ncourages efficient and effective collection of information and materiel for use against an insurgent in host nation criminal justice proceedings."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Journalists Still Finding Abandoned Diplomatic Documents in Libya

Foreign Policy had a piece yesterday by Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa reporting that additional diplomatic documents are still being found in the U.S. consulate in Benghazi called "'Troubling' Surveillance Before Benghazi Attack" available here (thanks to Emptywheel, who has coverage of the issue here).

The Doornbos and Moussa piece begins:
More than six weeks after the shocking assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi -- and nearly a month after an FBI team arrived to collect evidence about the attack - the battle-scarred, fire-damaged compound where Ambassador Chris Stevens and another Foreign Service officer lost their lives on Sept. 11 still holds sensitive documents and other relics of that traumatic final day, including drafts of two letters worrying that the compound was under "troubling" surveillance and complaining that the Libyan government failed to fulfill requests for additional security.
The authors quote from some of the documents at length, but do not post copies.  The authors note that the documents remained in the compound despite an onsite investigation by the FBI, stating:
The continued threat to U.S. personnel in Benghazi may be the reason these documents escaped the FBI's attention. With suspected militants still roaming the streets, FBI investigators only had limited time to check the consulate compound. According to a Benghazi resident who resides near the consulate, the FBI team spent only three hours examining the compound.
The FBI declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Given the number of investigations and inquiries ongoing in relation to the attack on the consulate, the fact that relevant documents are still being found unsecured within the compound is truly remarkable. And given the intense debate and coverage of the attack and U.S. actions, the fact that apparently authentic documents can credibly still be found there also presumably increases the risk that fabricated ones designed to influence that ongoing debate could be too.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

LCCHP's "From Plunder to Preservation" Conference Nov. 8-9

A quick note that the Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP) is having its fourth annual conference on Nov. 8-9 with the title "From Plunder to Preservation: The Untold Story of Cultural Heritage, World War II, and the Pacific." LCCHP notes that the conference marks "the 70th Anniversaries of the Battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal."  Registration information is here and full program information is available here.

Sessions over the two days include "The Destruction and Plunder of Cultural Heritage in the Pacific War: A Silent Legacy," "Due Diligence, Repatriation, and Restitution," "The Legal Framework for Preserving the Pacific's World War II-Era Past," "The Environmental Threat of Sunken Military Craft," and, of particular possible interest, "Old Records: New Possibilities" which features Greg Bradsher and Miriam Kleiman from NARA and historian Marc Masurovsky in a session moderated by Tom Kline from the law firm Andrews Kurth LLP.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bradsher on the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS)

Greg Bradsher recently had an interesting post on The Text Message (one of the National Archives blogs) called "Seventy Years Ago: Colonel Sidney F. Mashbir and the Allied Translator and Interpreter  Section (ATIS), September - October 1942" available here. It begins:
Seventy years ago, on September 19, 1942, one of the most important intelligence organizations in the Southwest Pacific Area was created and not long afterwards its commander, Sidney F. Mashbir, arrived in the theater to take command of it.  This was the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section, commonly referred to as ATIS. 
After the Allied Forces seized the offensive in the Southwest Pacific Area, the increasing number of prisoners and documents captured necessitated the consolidation and expansion of such Allied linguistic units as already existed.  As a result, General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area, issued on September 19, 1942, a directive establishing the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) as a centralized intelligence organization composed primarily of language personnel and designed to systematize the exploitation of captured documents and the interrogation of prisoners of war.  
A manual created by the ATIS concerning the restoration of captured records was earlier featured here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Interview about "Struggle For the Files" on Captured German Records in WWII

A quick note that New Books Network has posted a fascinating interview (here) by Marshall Poe of Astrid M. Eckert, a history professor at Emory, discussing her wonderful book "The Struggle for the Files: The Western Allies and the Return of German Archives after the Second World War" (which I previously recommended here).  The interview provides an overview of the book and covers some of the more colorful and interesting events described in it.

Chabad Rejects U.S. Government Position on Jewish Archives

Somewhat belatedly I wanted to briefly update the issue of possible contempt sanctions in the Chabad v. Russian Federation case involving the Russian Federation's failure to comply with a court order to hand over a historical Jewish archive and library (background is here).

Prior to deciding whether to impose sanctions on the Russian Federation, Judge Lamberth had asked for the views of the U.S. government (whose views were previously discussed here).  In short, the U.S. government stated that while it believed the Russian Federation ought to transfer the archives, the U.S. government argued that the Court could not and should not use contempt sanctions in order to force the Russian Federation to do so.

In the most recent filing in the case (available here), Chabad responded to, and rejected, the U.S. government's legal arguments.  Chabad summarizes its arguments quite clearly as follows:
The United States’ Statement of Interest is erroneous and defective for several reasons: 
First, rather than addressing the specific inquiry made by the Court at this juncture in this extended proceeding – i.e., whether any serious impact to American foreign-policy interests would result from the imposition of contempt sanctions that this Court has already held to be justified – the Statement of Interest challenges the legal holding that the Court made in July 2011, after the United States had filed a Statement of Interest that did not object to the imposition of sanctions. Contrary to what it acknowledged in the Statement filed in June 2011, the United States now argues that a contempt sanction in this case “would be inconsistent with the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.” This Court squarely held to the contrary in July 2011, and it has not requested the United States to revisit that legal issue.
Second, in making this new legal argument, the United States invokes a legal principle that has no application to this case. The United States asserts that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not permit execution of a judgment against “tangible property possessed by Russia in Russian territory.” Chabad is not seeking to execute its judgment against property in Russia. It is seeking to enforce a court order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1610(a)(3), (b)(2) and with a contempt sanction that would be executed entirely within the United States.
Third, in a vain effort to distinguish this case from the ruling of the Court of Appeals in FG Hemisphere Associates, LLC v. Democratic Republic of Congo, 637 F.3d 373, 377 (D.C. Cir. 2011), the United States contends that the Court of Appeals’ decision in the Republic of Congo case concerned “non-compliance with a discovery order.” Statement, p. 9. The United States has apparently overlooked the fact that the defendants’ pattern of contempt in this case began with false interrogatory responses and ended with a refusal on June 26, 2009, to “respond to plaintiff’s discovery requests”, followed by a withdrawal of the case after noting that defendants would not recognize any orders of the Court. 729 F. Supp. 2d at 144. (ECF 71, 92-1.) Hence this case also concerns “non-compliance with a discovery order.”
Fourth, the United States’ Statement totally fails to specify any serious impact to American foreign-policy interests that would result from the entry of a civil contempt order in this case. The Statement invokes only a general concern regarding reciprocity and retaliation, and that concern rests on a misstatement of the relief that Chabad is seeking in this case. It also asserts – contrary to ample historical evidence – that entry of a contempt order will hinder “amicable resolution of the dispute between Chabad and Russia concerning the Collection.” Statement, p. 13. History has proved that many years of diplomatic effort at the highest levels of the United States and Russian governments failed to reach such an “amicable resolution.” And the Department of State has been singularly passive and unsuccessful in convincing the Russian Federation to comply with this Court’s judgment and international law.
We will await any further action on docket.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Joffe on Syrian Regime Archives

Alexander Joffe has a piece in The National Interest called "Preserving the Syrian Paper Trail" (available here) discussing the importance of the fate of the archives and records of the Syrian government. Joffe begins:
When the regime of Bashar al-Assad is destroyed or pushed out of Damascus, it will leave behind a wrecked capital and unparalleled record of supporting terrorist groups and covert deals with Russia, Iran and North Korea. What we understand of that record will be shaped by the documents that are preserved and analyzed. What Syrians will understand about forty years of rule by the fascist Baath party and its crimes against the Syrian people also depends on preserving something vital yet almost out of sight: the regime’s archives and files.
Joffe states that in "recent conflicts" the "United States has secured records haphazardly" citing Iraq and notes that in Egypt "members of the internal-security agency shredded files to sanitize the Mubarak regime and themselves and to create gaps in the historical record." Joffe continues:
Documents were once a prime military target. As the Allies swept across Europe during World War II, they seized hundreds of tons of Nazi documents that are still being studied today. Among other things, these provided the documentary record of the Holocaust and were introduced as evidence at Nuremberg and other war-crimes trials. They also form the basis for our understanding of that dark period of history. But such materials have slipped from view as a military priority. Actionable intelligence has been the primary focus of military “document exploitation” in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as Saddam’s and Osama bin Laden’s files have yielded vital historical and legal insights.
Joffe ends with the following call to action:
Demanding that mere paperwork be preserved seems strange when people are dying. But Syrian rebels, Egyptian revolutionaries and the next group fighting against repression need to be taught that files are a key to the future. The U.S. government and military must relearn the lessons of World War II—that the future depends in part on securing the past. Specialized skills are involved in document recovery and exploitation, more familiar to U.S. attorneys than U.S. Special Forces. Forensic accountants and computer geeks need to be at or near the front line supporting U.S. and friendly forces. Archivists, lawyers and historians need to follow up quickly, to utilize materials for criminal prosecutions and to correct the first draft of history provided by journalists and propagandists.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

WashPo on Sensitive Diplomatic Docs Left Behind in Libya

Michael Birnbaum has a piece in the Washington Post called "Sensitive documents left behind at U.S. diplomatic post in Libya" (available here). It begins:
More than three weeks after attacks in this city killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, sensitive documents remained only loosely secured in the wreckage of the U.S. mission on Wednesday, offering visitors easy access to delicate information about American operations in Libya.
Documents detailing weapons collection efforts, emergency evacuation protocols, the full internal itinerary of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’s trip and the personnel records of Libyans who were contracted to secure the mission were among the items scattered across the floors of the looted compound when a Washington Post reporter and an interpreter visited Wednesday.
The article also provides images of several of the documents here. Among them is an evacuation plan which lists as a task "Gather or destroy sensitive equipment and documents."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Destroyed CIA Tapes & the National Archives

I have a piece today on JURIST called "The CIA and the Unfinished National Archives Inquiry" (available here) that argues that given the completion of the full investigation of Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham into the CIA's detention program, the time has finally come for the CIA to answer NARA's inquiry (NARA letters are here and here) into whether the destruction of the CIA interrogation tapes was a violation of the federal records laws.

Earlier coverage of the issue of the destroyed CIA tapes is here and here.



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

U.S. Says Russians Should Transfer Jewish Archives, But Court Can't Hold Them in Contempt for Failing to Do So

A few weeks back the U.S. government finally submitted its views (available here) on possible contempt sanctions in the Chabad v. Russian Federation case for the refusal of the Russian Federation to transfer Jewish archives despite a court order (for background see here).  In advance of Chabad's response, which is due no later than this Friday, September 28, I wanted to briefly highlight the U.S. position which basically boils down to this: while the United States believes the Russian Federation should transfer the archives, the U.S. argues that the Court cannot (and/or should not) use contempt sanctions in an attempt to force them to do so.

The U.S. government's filing begins by stating that:
the United States wishes to reiterate its strong support for the claim of the plaintiff, Agudas Chasidei Chabad of the United States (“Chabad”), to gain possession of the collection of books, manuscripts, and other cultural artifacts at issue in this litigation (the “Collection”). The United States has maintained a consistent position that the Collection should be transferred to Chabad. In this regard, since the early 1990s, the Executive Branch has made extensive diplomatic efforts to help Chabad gain possession of the Collection. The United States has raised the issue at the Presidential level under several administrations, and in cabinet, Ambassadorial, and working-level diplomatic discussions throughout this period. The United States is currently pursuing diplomatic efforts toward this objective, and it intends to continue to do so.
BUT, the United States says, for the Court to enter an order of civil contempt sanctions "is not appropriate," "would not be an effective means to achieve" the goal of the transfer of the archives, and "would not be consistent with the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act" which, the United States argues, "does not permit a court to compel compliance with a specific performance order regarding property held by a foreign sovereign within the sovereign's own territory." Furthermore, the United States asserts that to provide such relief "would be contrary to the foreign policy interests of the United States."

While awaiting Chabad's formal response later this week, I wanted to offer a few initial comments on the government's arguments, which strike me as both lacking and rather odd.

First, the government's arguments seem belated and untimely. While the government purports to be making a (timely) argument that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) does not authorize the Court's contemplated use of contempt sanctions to enforce its order compelling the Russian Federation to surrender the archives that remain in Russian territory, the crux of the government's argument appears to be an indirect criticism of the underlying order itself which was issued back in July 2010. The United States never objected, however, to the content or breadth of the original 2010 order. In fact, after it was issued the U.S. State Department dutifully provided the Russian Federation with notice of the default judgment and the order via these December 2010 diplomatic notes.


Moreover, the United States also proactively filed an earlier statement of interest in the case in June 2011, which was after Chabad had moved for sanctions for Russia's failure to comply with the 2010 order, and in which the government only raised concerns about the possible seizure of Russian cultural property in the United States (concerns which Judge Lamberth later rejected as "unfounded" and "based on a misperception").  The government's June 2011 filing raised no concerns about either Judge Lamberth's July 2010 order nor the possible imposition of sanctions, a fact Judge Lamberth expressly noted in July 2011, stating that the "United States does not, at least in its latest statements, object to the imposition of sanctions."

Second, to the extent the United States really is solely focused on the issue of imposing contempt sanctions and not Judge Lamberth's initial order, the government's filing fails in my view to convincingly distinguish the D.C. Circuit's 2011 opinion in FG Hemisphere v. Democratic Republic of Congo, which held that imposing contempt sanctions against a foreign sovereign for failing to comply with a U.S. court order is consistent with the FSIA.  The U.S. government had similarly argued in that case that the FSIA did not allow a District Court to impose contempt sanctions on a foreign sovereign.  The D.C. Circuit, in an opinion written by Judge Silberman, rejected the government's position, which the court called "quite confusing."

As the D.C. Circuit noted in FG Hemisphere, which is equally true in Chabad, the authority of a court to impose monetary contempt sanctions on a foreign sovereign for failing to comply with an order is separate from the issue of any subsequent attempts to collect on those monetary sanctions. Put another way, even if Judge Lamberth does impose monetary contempt sanctions, Chabad may never obtain any of money, but that is very different than the issue of whether Judge Lamberth has the authority to impose them in the first place.

Finally, the government's remaining argument is that, even if the Court can impose contempt sanctions, it should exercise its discretion not to, both for foreign policy reasons and because, in the U.S. government's view, it would be "counter-productive" to diplomatic efforts designed to persuade the Russian Federation to transfer the archives voluntarily. While I think that these points are stronger than the purely legal arguments discussed above, I think these arguments are also undermined by the government's delay in making them.

Judge Lamberth's invitation to the U.S. government to submit its views clearly illustrates that he has made no final decision. However, given that the U.S. neither objected to the original order compelling the transfer of the archives nor objected initially to the possibility of sanctions and given that Judge Lamberth went so far as to issue an additional order in July 2011 demanding that the Russian Federation show cause why he should not impose contempt sanctions (which was also ignored), the government has put the Court in a position where if the Court decides now not to impose any sanctions after all, as the U.S. government suggests it should do, it arguably risks undermining the Court's orders and, in more subtle ways, the Court itself.

Significance of New Draft Iraqi Law Restricting Access to Saddam Regime Documents

AFP has an important new article by Guillaume Decamme called "Iraq archives chief moves to seal Saddam-era files" available here that reports that the director of the Iraqi National Library and Archives Saad Iskander has "prepared and submitted a draft law that, if adopted by parliament, would criminalise the publication of Saddam-era documents without the consent" of individuals mentioned in them.

According to the article the draft law is a response to the use - and sometimes abuse - of Saddam regime documents, quoting Isakander:
"Some documents published in the press named people who were executed, and when, and where," Iskander said. "The didn't conceal the names of the victims."
"We don't have the right to publish the names of the victims and those who committed the crimes," he said. "This is up to them."
Iskander also condemned the actions of some political parties, which have threatened to release documents allegedly showing candidates from opposing parties were members of Saddam's now-banned Baath party."
I also wonder, however, if the draft law could also be related to the recent negotiations with the United States about the return of Iraqi documents in U.S. custody. Whether, for example, as a possible precondition for the return of the documents, the United States has urged Iraq to enact laws to control access to Iraqi records to alleviate concerns that repatriating Iraqi documents could either endanger individuals named in them or otherwise create further unrest or political instability.

The article describes both support for and concerns about the law. Decamme notes that an "Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the government would support such a law" and that "Iskander's proposal is also viewed kindly within the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, which saw some of its candidates face bans in the run-up to 2010 parliamentary polls over allegations of Baathist ties."  At the same time, the article notes that "others warn that the proposed new law could place limits on freedom of the press":
"How can we remain silent when we see a document about former Baath party members which carries information about a genocide?" asked Ziad al-Ajili, the head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, an Iraqi watchdog.
"Remaining silent is a crime. The crime is not to publish these documents," Ajili said.
The draft law is significant news, but its extent and possible impact is unclear from the limited information in the article which indicates that the AFP did not have the full details of the law noting that Iskander "declined to reveal the details as the draft was still under review."

The specifics that are available are that, quoting Iskander, "This law will organise the level of access to information. Some information will be disclosed to the prime minister, some to judges. But not everybody will have access to all information."  The article also notes that "Iskander said the draft law provides for penalties including fines and prison sentences for those who release documents without authorisation."

A central issue left unclear from the limited details in the article is the question of to which documents exactly the law would apply.  Would all Saddam-era documents be encompassed or only those more sensitive documents that might contain personal information of victims?  Also, would the law only cover those documents in Iraqi government custody or would the law purport to cover documents in private custody in Iraq, U.S. government custody in Qatar, the Ba'ath party documents at Hoover, the copies of Iraqi documents at the Conflict Records Research Center, or even the copies I've posted on the Captured Documents Index?

If any of that sounds far-fetched, it is important to compare the application of U.S. law.  As has been illustrated in the case of Wikileaks, simply because documents have previously been released publicly by private actors does not mean that the government will not restrict access to them.  See, e.g., the ACLU's exhibit that compares the redacted State Department cables it received via FOIA and the corresponding public Wikileaks cables and the court opinion upholding the State Department's redactions.

The U.S. prosecution of Bradley Manning also illustrates that the United States extends legal restrictions to copies of U.S. government documents in private hands.  That is, Manning is not accused of removing U.S. classified documents (in a manner that would deprive the U.S. government of their use) but rather of making digital copies of them which he allegedly provided to Wikileaks. Several U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal in fact have found that intangible confidential U.S. government information remains U.S. government property regardless of who owns the paper it is reproduced on.  See, e.g., U.S. v. Girard or U.S. v. Jetersee also the State Department Legal Advisor's initial letter to Julian Assange demanding that Wikileaks "return any and all classified U.S. government material in its possession."

Hopefully additional details about the draft law will be forthcoming.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Emptywheel on Embassy Protests & Seized Diplomatic Documents

I wanted to briefly highlight a recent post by Emptywheel called "How Many of the Protests Have Gotten Diplomatic Documents?" that pulls together a number of news sources suggesting that in the recent protests diplomatic documents were seized from the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, the U.S. Embassy in Yemen (including a forecast that there may be a Wikileaks-style release of seized material in Yemen), and a report that the the U.S. Embassy in Beirut had begun pre-emptively destroying classified material.

We'll see whether any diplomatic document seizures rise anywhere to the level of Tehran 1979.

For more on State Department procedures for either emergency destruction or "safe haven" of the records of a diplomatic post, see the Foreign Affairs handbook here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

International Access to Archives

In a 1949 article in The Indian Archives called "UNESCO's Concern with Archives," the great Ernst Posner described in fascinating detail some of the negative effects on historical and social sciences research that derive from restrictions on access to archives.  Posner focused in particular on the problems of researchers who wanted to expand their research to include foreign archives, noting:
There remained throughout the 19th and 20th centuries a greater or lesser amount of discrimination against the foreign scholar desirous of using the archives of another country than his own. While this discrimination might be reduced to a minimum between allied and friendly countries it became manifest in cases in which relations between the foreign scholar's state and the state whose archives he wished to use were tense or unfriendly, and the governments would resort to a variety of delays and subterfuges to bar a foreign scholar from access to records they did not wish him to see.
Posner stated that the "use of records by a foreign scholar whose research topic was not looked upon favourably by the government of another country" could "be effectively prevented by means of delay and simple red tape" and provided, as just one example of many:
in the 1930's a German scholar, working on the devastation of the Palatinate during the campaigns of Louis XIV, applied and obtained permission to use the pertinent materials of the Archives of the French Ministry of War. When he arrived in Paris, however, he learned that his permit had already expired (although he had not been told that it was limited) and that he could not see the records. When he re-applied he was notified that the French Government was examining into the question of their publication and that therefore they could not be make available to a private searcher.
Posner's discussion of the negative effects of such access restrictions ended with a call to action:
It seems imperative to remedy this situation if we intend to achieve an internationally-minded interpretation of the past. How can we hope to arrive at textbooks that do not "poison the minds of children and young people" as long as access to the primary research material of history is contingent upon the nationality of the searcher and as long as records that may reflect unfavourably upon policies and activities of a state are reserved for the trusted, that is the nationality biased scholar? Free and equal access "by citizens of all countries" to archival materials must be guaranteed if their truthful and unbiased use, a prerequisite of truthful and unbiased treatment of past events, is to be guaranteed. (footnotes omitted).
In line with Posner's 1949 vision, the International Council on Archives recently adopted unanimously a document called Principles of Access to Archives at its August meeting in Brisbane (full-text is available here).  The Principles, developed under the leadership of Trudy Peterson, address a number of important access issues -- including a principle corresponding to Posner's specific concern, which asserts that archives should be made available "on equal and fair terms."

The 10 principles, which are defined and described in greater detail within the document, are:
1. The public has the right of access to archives of public bodies. Both public and private entities should open their archives to the greatest extent possible.
2. Institutions holding archives make known the existence of the archives, including the existence of closed materials, and disclose the existence of restrictions that affect access to the archives.
3. Institutions holding archives adopt a pro-active approach to access.
4. Institutions holding archives ensure that restrictions on access are clear and of stated duration, are based on pertinent legislation, acknowledge the right of privacy and respect the rights of owners of private materials.
5. Archives are made available on equal and fair terms.
6. Institutions holding archives ensure that victims of serious crimes under international law have access to archives that proved evidence needed to assert their human rights and to document violations of them, even if those archives are closed to the general public.
7. Users have the right to appeal a denial of access.
8. Institutions holding archives ensure that operational constraints do not prevent access to archives.
9. Archivist have access to all closed archives and perform necessary archival work on them.
10. Archivists participate in the decision-making process on access.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Rev. Columba Stewart on Digitally Preserving Archives

The Rev. Columba Stewart, the executive director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John's University (in Collegeville, Minnesota), has a piece called "Technology can Preserve World History" (available here) in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  It begins:
Walter M. Miller Jr.'s 1960 novel "A Canticle for Leibowitz" imagined a world hundreds of years in the future in which an order of Catholic monks devotes itself to recovering the fragments of human literary culture left after nuclear war. As we read about the destruction of cultural heritage in Timbuktu, home of some of the most important libraries of the Muslim world, track the progress of war and ethnic violence across the Middle East, and contemplate a nuclear-armed Iran, Miller's novel seems eerily prophetic.
Manuscripts -- handwritten books and ancient archival records -- are especially vulnerable in such conflicts. Unlike printed books, each manuscript is unique and irreplaceable. Once lost, there is no way to recover what it contained. Each manuscript has a story about who created it, who read it, who cared for it. Each of those people leaves a mark: the text itself, written by hand; the scribe's note of when and where it was copied; the reader's notes; the stamps or seals of the libraries or individuals who cared for it.
Rev. Stewart goes on to describe the efforts of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library to digitally preserve endangered manuscripts abroad:
I entered the monastery in Collegeville in 1981, and since 2003 have been directing the manuscript preservation project. We have been largely focused on the Middle East, Turkey and India, helping threatened communities to digitize their manuscript heritage just in case. Among the treasures now safely in digital form are all of the surviving Armenian and Syriac manuscripts held by churches in Turkey, some as old as the seventh and eighth centuries. In Aleppo, an Iraqi refugee from Mosul photographed the manuscripts brought from Urfa/Edessa in 1923, and local teams were trained to photograph Syriac, Arabic and Armenian manuscripts in the city that is now facing destruction. Among the manuscripts from Urfa is the only complete copy of a 12th-century account of the Crusades as witnessed by the Christians of the Middle East. In Iraq, we have worked with a team of young Christians, many of them refugees, who have tracked down thousands of important manuscripts and made them available digitally to researchers throughout the world. Recent projects in Jerusalem have digitized some of the extraordinary manuscript collections held by Christian and Muslim communities in the Old City, one of the most sensitive and volatile locations on the planet.

Friday, September 7, 2012

U.S. Denies that Iraq Jewish Archives were "Smuggled" to Israel

Al Arabiya has a piece called "Iraq's Jewish archive has not been smuggled: U.S. official" that is a follow-up on the recent U.S./Iraq negotiations in Baghdad that included discussions about the "ongoing process of repatriating archives and documents which are part of the patrimony of the Iraqi people."  The piece states that following the meetings U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Elizabeth Jones confirmed to reporters that the Iraqi Jewish archives have "not been smuggled" to Israel and that they are in "the United States to be 'restored and photographed.'"  Al Arabiya notes that "Jones described the process of photographing the document[s] as 'complicated,' alluding to the need for a longer time to return the whole complete archive back to Iraq."

The piece also recounts that the allegations about the Iraqi Jewish archives "surfaced in June, when Iraq's Tourism and Antiquities Minister Lewa Smeisim told the state-run Sabah newspaper that Iraq had received information indicating [the Jewish archives were] in Israel" (see earlier coverage of those allegations and their effects here, here, and here).

The new and clear denial of the questionable allegations is a welcome development.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Human Rights Watch Releases More Seized Libyan Documents

Human Rights Watch has released today a new report called "Delivered Into Enemy Hands: US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi's Libya" that relies on both on interviews with former detainees as well as the collection of intelligence documents seized during the fall of Tripoli (previously discussed here, herehere, and here).

The most significant information in the report is an new allegation of CIA waterboarding by a former detainee named Mohammed Shoroeiya.  He was not among the three individuals the CIA previously, publicly acknowledged were waterboarded.

The report begins:
When rebel forces overtook Tripoli in August 2011, prison doors were opened and office files exposed, revealing startling new information about LibyaĆ¢€™s relations with other countries. One such revelation, documented in this report, is the degree of involvement of the United States government under the Bush administration in the arrest of opponents of the former Libyan Leader, Muammar Gaddafi, living abroad, the subsequent torture and other ill-treatment of many of them in US custody, and their forced transfer to back to Libya.
The report also includes an appendix with 49 pages of the intelligence documents seized in Libya. Some have been previously released publicly, but others have not.  The full appendix is available here.

New York Times coverage is here and Benjamin Wittes over at Lawfare admitting that he no longer cares about allegations of detainee mistreatment is here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

U.S./Iraq Negotiations on Iraqi Archives and Documents

The State Department released a press release today consisting of a "Joint Statement of the U.S.-Iraq Political and Diplomatic Joint Coordination Committee" reporting on a meeting today in Baghdad in which the "Governments of the Republic of Iraq and the United States reaffirmed their strategic partnership."

The press release states that during the meeting - "co-chaired by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ambassador Elizabeth Jones" - the "United States and Iraq discussed the ongoing process of repatriating archives and documents which are part of the patrimony of the Iraqi people." No further details are provided about the extent of those discussions, unfortunately, but the use of "archives and documents" is at least suggestive that the negotiations concerned both the Iraqi Jewish archives as well as the thousands of boxes of documents seized by U.S. forces.

The press release also notes that during the meeting the "United States praised Iraqi efforts to resolve Chapter VII issues regarding its relationship with Kuwait, in accordance with UNSC Resolution 833. The United States is committed to working with both Iraq and Kuwait to resolve remaining Chapter VII issues." Those issues include the Kuwait national archives missing since Saddam's invasion. As I have argued previously (see here and here), Kuwait's missing archives and the U.S.-seized documents today's State Department release calls "the patrimony of the Iraqi people" are not necessarily unrelated as the latter could potentially help locate the former.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Researching at the Iraqi National Archives

In the latest TAARII Newsletter of the American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (available here, older issues are available here), there is a piece by Alda Benjamen called "Research at the Iraqi National Library and Archives" that gives a detailed report on a December 2011 research visit with up-to-date information about the current status of the Iraqi National Library and Archives (INLA).


Benjamen discusses issues of access, security, and the process for researchers requesting archival records. In covering the different time periods represented by the archival collections, Benjamen notes:
Researchers interested in the history of twentieth-century Iraq will find archival material up until the 1960s or so in the INLA. I was told that sources not deemed “sensitive,” such as reports on agriculture, from the Ba‘thist period are still available at the INLA. The overwhelming majority of Ba‘thist documents are currently housed at the Hoover Institution in California. Readers of the TAARII newsletter are likely to be familiar with the ongoing dispute with regard to the Ba‘thist archives in the U.S., and the demands of the Iraqi government officials and INLA staff to have them returned to Iraq. In Iraq, certain organizations have some Ba‘thist sources as well. These include: Iraqi political parties, certain organizations (e.g., organizations dedicated to martyrs), and a few Iraqi professors. The lack of Ba’thist archives in the country makes it difficult for Iraqi graduate students and researchers to conduct research on their country’s modern history. (footnotes omitted)
On the issue of Ba'thist documents in private hands, Benjamen further states in a footnote:
In a conversation with an Iraqi graduate student doing research at the INLA, I learned that a certain professor in Najaf has a collection of Ba‘thist documents. According to her, graduate students contact him and he readily shares archival material with them.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Archivist Releases New Records Management Directive

The new "Managing Government Records Directive" from the Archivist of the United States and the Office of Management and Budget was released this morning.  The full-text of the Directive is available here and initial coverage and an FAQ regarding the Directive from NARA's Records Express blog is here.

Elrazzaz on Timbuktu's Andalusian Manuscripts

Mohammed Elrazzaz has an interesting piece on Ahram online called "The Fate of Timbuktu's Andalusian Manuscripts" available here. It begins:
Ahmed Baba was one of Timbuktu's most celebrated scholars in the medieval period. His writing about the city can be best understood if we go back in time to Timbuktu of the Songhai Empire of the 15th and 16th centuries. What you find in Baba's writings is one of history’s most dramatic cultural odysseys, that of the Kati manuscripts. The story, however, starts elsewhere – and goes back further in time. It starts in Toledo in present-day Spain, and its legacy lives on in Timbuktu and other caravan cities of West Africa.
After briefly tracing the history until 1593 when Kati died, Elrazzaz states "Never would we have imagined the great lengths that his descendants would go to in order to fulfill his wish that the library he created be protected."

Elrazzaz then moves forward describing how the "Kati manuscripts survived one misfortune after another" including "Moroccan attacks on the Songhai Empire led by Jawdar Pasha and Ibn Zarkun" and noting that later the "manuscripts were dispersed and carefully hidden to hide them from the French colonial powers." More recently,
In the 1990s, Ismael Diadie Haiydara Kati, together with his father, undertook the heroic task of tracing the old family members and collecting all the Kati manuscripts. Some are destroyed or damaged, but they managed to collect over 3,000 manuscripts. Spain financed the construction of a building that housed the Bibliotheca Kati (Fondo Kati). It houses works in Arabic, Hebrew and Aljamiado (Romance languages written in the Arabic script) written by Andalusian scholars and immigrants, Jewish merchants, Arab intellectuals and Christian renegades. From medicine and mathematics to philosophy and law, the Kati collection is a treasure in every sense of the word, covering a period that extends from the 12th through to the 19th century.
Elrazzaz states that assessing the value of the collection would be a dangerous undertaking during the current conflict in Mali and ends by noting:
Ismael Diadie did not risk his family’s heritage. He and other Kati family members reportedly left Timbuktu with as many precious manuscripts as they could carry. History might be repeating itself as you read these lines: the manuscripts might be safely hidden somewhere outside Timbuktu. One day when and if things calm down, they might surface again, and the story of the Kati Family will again be celebrated. Until that day comes, the fate of Timbuktu’s Andalusian manuscripts remains to be a question mark.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Update and New Article on Contested Jewish Archives in Chabad Case

A brief update on the ongoing litigation in the Chabad v. Russian Federation case involving possible sanctions against the Russian Federation, the Russian State Library, and the Russian State Military Archives for failing to turn over a Jewish library and archives (for background see here).  After Judge Lamberth invited the U.S. government to opine on the issue of sanctions and the United Staes asked for an extension until Aug. 10 to formulate them, last week the U.S. government kicked the can again and asked for an additional extension until September 10, 2012 in order to "complete its deliberations."

The new status report notes:
As part of its deliberations in this matter, the Executive Branch felt it appropriate to consult with the parties. That process, however, has only recently been completed. The United States is now in the process of completing its internal deliberations with respect to the issues raised in the plaintiff's motion, in light of those consultations.
The U.S. government then "respectfully requests that any decision addressing the plaintiff's motion be deferred until it has completed its deliberations."

Also, for anyone interested in this case, Yale Law student Giselle Barcia has a Comment in the most recent Yale Journal of International Law called "After Chabad: Enforcement in Cultural Property Disputes" available in full-text here.  The article was written prior to Chabad's March 2012 request that Judge Lamberth impose the contempt sanctions that Chabad had voluntarily been delaying, but its raises some interesting and highly relevant issues about the problems of enforcement in cultural property disputes.  Barcia states:
Chabad's struggle to enforce the U.S. decree escalated from a legal dispute to a political and cultural public relations battle between the two countries. The protracted conflict had a profound impact in the art world as well as the political world. It resulted in diplomatic tension between the United States and Russia, inefficiencies in the market for art loans, and, accordingly, decreased access to cultural property. The post-judgment conflict in Chabad also exposes a gap in cultural property law: an abscence of clear guidelines on enforcement. It suggests that the existing options for enforcement are inappropriate for international cultural property disputes. Although cultural property law perhaps rightly focuses on dispute prevention, it must also provide an enforcement mechanism for international "conflicts of culture" litigation. (footnotes omitted)
Barcia warns that "without enforcement mechanisms built into cultural property law, the struggles in Chabad will doubtless repeat themselves in future cultural property disputes involving foreign sovereigns."


Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Conspiring Bastards": Brands & Palkki on Saddam

Hal Brands and David Palkki recently published a fascinating article in Diplomatic History called "'Conspiring Bastards': Saddam Hussein's Strategic View of the United States" (I unfortunately cannot post the full-text, but the abstract is here).  The article makes extensive use of captured documents from Iraq available at the Conflict Records Research Center in providing a colorful tour of the development of Saddam's views of the United States from the late 1960s until the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.


On the value of the captured documents, the authors note at the start:
Until recently, the paucity of internal, primary-source documentation on Saddam's regime forced scholars to resort to a sort of Kreminology to divine the strategic calculus that drove his decision making. This is beginning to change. With the toppling of the Baathist regime in 2003, U.S. and coalition forces recovered millions of pages of Iraqi state records from various ministries and government offices. These records document the activities of the Republican Guard, the intelligence agencies, the Presidential Diwan, and other offices. They include everything from routine administrative correspondence to tapes and transcripts of meetings between Saddam and his top advisors. While gaps in coverage remain, the captured records shed considerable light on Iraqi decision making and national security policy under Saddam.
Particularly interesting, and entertaining, is the account of the 1986 revelation to Saddam, Iraq, and the rest of the world that the Reagan administration had been secretly selling arms to Iran, what Saddam apparently called "Irangate." Brands and Palkki state that "Saddam mounted a surprisingly subdued diplomatic response" designed to "shore up U.S. backing for Baghdad by taking a moderate public line" and note that "[t]o the extent that this strategy aimed to win the moral high ground in dealing with Washington, it worked" noting that "[a]s Ambassador Newton later put it, 'I never thought Iraq would be in a position to take the high road with us, but they did.'" Privately, however:
It is difficult to imagine an episode better tailored to exacerbate Saddam's fears and suspicions in this regard - his constant wariness of conspiracies, his mistrust of American intentions, his worries about U.S.-Israeli-Iranian encirclement. Viewed through this lens, Irangate appeared not as the half-baked scheme it was, but rather as evidence of a grand conspiracy against the regime.
Brands and Palkki note the consequences of this, stating "from the late 1980s onward, Saddam would often refer back to this incident as the opening shot in an American onslaught against Iraq" and quote Saddam from a captured document from the CRRC's collection dated after his 1990 invasion of Kuwait stating "The war was launched on us long before all this" and "It officially started in the 1986 meeting, and was exposed under the title 'Irangate.'"

The article concludes that "From the time Saddam came to power in the late 1960s through the invasion of Kuwait more than two decades later, his view of Washington was dominated by remarkable suspicion and hostility," but notes that
these perceptions derived from a conspiratorial mindset that was, in its own way, eminently useful, in that it led Saddam to create overlapping layers of internal security that allowed him to sustain the Baathist regime for thirty-five years. And while Saddam's fears were exaggerated, they were not completely baseless. Harming Iraq was never the primary purpose of U.S. policy during this period - broader considerations such as containing Soviet influence and maintaining regional stability took pride of place - yet American initiatives were frequently prejudicial to Saddam's government. From U.S. support for the Kurds in the 1970s through Irangate in the 1980s, Washington's policies confirmed Saddam's gravest suspicions and made the conspiracy theorist, at least in his own eyes, a prophet.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Kuwait Deputy Prime Minister on Iraq and Missing Kuwaiti Archives

Kuwait's Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al Hamad Al Sabah recently dispatched a letter to the President of the U.N. Security Council regarding the "the latest developments in the matter of Iraq's outstanding obligations pursuant to the Security Council resolutions" including Iraq's obligation to return Kuwait's national archives seized by Saddam's Iraq. Al Sabah's letter references the Secretary-General's recent report and states:
With regard to progress made in the matter of Kuwaiti property and the national archive, Iraq has returned some Kuwaiti property belonging to certain Kuwaiti Government authorities and, in December 2011, established a ministerial committee to follow up on this matter. However, this committee has not presented any reports on its work. The fate of the Kuwaiti national archive, which includes important documents pertaining to the Amiri Diwan, the Diwan of the Crown Prince and the Diwan of the Prime Minister, remains unknown.
The references to specific collections of archives, although very general, is more detail about the missing archives than is normally given.  Back in 2000, Kuwait did submit this more detailed list of the archives it sought.  The list of archives and records Iraq claimed to have subsequently returned to Kuwait in 2002 is enclosed here.

Kuwait News Agency coverage of Al Sabah's letter is here.  Previous coverage of the controversy over the missing Kuwaiti national archives is here, here, and here.