Wednesday, June 20, 2012

U.N. Security Council Update on Missing Kuwait National Archives

UPDATE: Here is the formal press announcement from the U.N. Security Council.

The U.N. Security Council met yesterday to consider U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's 33rd Report pursuant to paragraph 14 of Security Council resolution 1284 (1999), which relates, in part, to the continuing issue of Kuwait's missing national archives seized by Iraq during the 1990 invasion.

The Secretary-General's latest report again laments that "no substantial progress has been made in the search for the national archive, nor has credible information about its fate or whereabouts emerged," but notes that "Iraq-Kuwait relations have improved" and that "Iraq has demonstrated, by finding other missing Kuwaiti property [referring to the property returns here and here], that its credible and sustained efforts in this regard can bear results."

The report also updates on the activities of Iraq's new high-level committee focused on the missing Kuwaiti archives noting that the committee:
had met on 4 January 2012 and recommended that the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers should request all ministries and other non-ministerial institutions to inform the committee of any properties and files belonging to the Government of Kuwait no later than 15 February 2012.
The report notes, however, that the U.N. "has not received an update on the results of those efforts."

On a recommendation from the Secretary-General, the Security Council extended the mandate of the U.N. High Level Coordinator on the issue, Gennady Tarasov, until the end of 2012 and also again reiterated its earlier call for an "intensification" of Iraq's efforts to find the missing national archives.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Saddam's Document Destruction Order

I previously posted about Saddam's wartime document preservation strategy ("When we are in a war, important documents must have two copies in two different locations. What if this location is bombed or burned?) as well as a wartime document evacuation order ("In preparation for any foreign attack (God forbid) be prepared to disperse documents from headquarters to private residences in various geographic locations").  Thanks to Nate Jones and the National Security Archive we now also have a full document destruction order available on Unredacted in a post called "Declassified Iraqi Memo Points to the Genesis of the Insurgency."

The document, which the National Security Archive obtained via FOIA, is dated Jan. 23, 2003 and indicates that it is from the "Republic of Iraq, Presidential Office, Iraqi Intelligence Service" and is addressed to "All National Offices." It states:
please do what is necessary if, God forbid, the Iraqi Command falls to the Coalition Forces -- the Americans, British and Zionists. To all the associates in your offices, and specifically the departments mentioned above, proceed in accordance with the following instructions:
1- Demolish and burn all offices in the country, especially [those] associated with ours and other departments.
2- Change your residence from time to time.
3- Sabotage electrical power stations.
4- Sabotage water stations
5- Recruit reliable sources and direct them to the mosques.
6- Associate with the Islamic Hawza 'Alemiya in Najaf. [Translator's comment: The Hawza is an Islamic religious teaching institution.]
7- Associate with the national and Islamic groups and parties.
8- Cease all internal and external communications.
9- Purchase stolen weapons from the public.
10- Develop relationships with those returning from abroad.
11- Assassinate the clergy in the mosques. [Translator's comment: Clergy here includes both Imams and orators (guest speakers).]
A couple of points about this document.

The stamps on the document indicate that the U.S. government was treating the document as U.S. Top Secret (it was also marked Iraqi Top Secret) and that it, at least the copy obtained by the National Security Archive, was declassified in 2009.  This is despite the fact that (1) the document was previously published in the London newspaper Al Hayat in July 2003 (the link to the image of the document on MEMRI is dead, but is still available courtesy of the Internet Archive here) and (2) it was also apparently posted by the U.S. government on the "Iraqi Freedom Documents" portal in 2006.  It is unclear whether the U.S. classification of the document would comport with current U.S. doctrine on DOMEX and captured documents which states:
As a general rule, captured and acquired documents and media are considered unclassified unless they originated in the US and/or an allied nation and are marked as classified. Capturing units may classify document and media to protect sources and methods or on-going operations, however, such classification should be kept to the lowest level possible and with minimal use of caveats. Documents that bear foreign classification markings are handled according to US classification standards, regardless of their original foreign classification.
In an earlier article (see pp. 1033-34), I cited the first ordered action in this document (based on the Al Hayat version) - "Demolish and burn all offices in the country" - to highlight the precarious position of government documents on the eve of foreign attack. As the great Ernst Posner wrote, defending nations "have discovered that in their fight against the conqueror the destruction of records may be a weapon as powerful as the dynamiting of railroads and the blowing up of bridges."  At those times it is the attacking forces that often have more of an interest in preserving the documents intact and the greatest danger of destruction may come from the government that created them.

Thanks again to the National Security Archive. I have added the original and translation to the Captured Documents Index under its Harmony number CMPC-2003-016373.

"Gaddafi Archives" Exhibit in London

For anyone in, or visiting, London, from June 21-29 at the Slade Research Centre there will be an exhibit called "The Gaddafi Archives - Libya before the Arab Spring" as part of the London Festival of Photography.  The description states (with my emphasis at the end):
Through carefully collated photographs, documents, artefacts and videos this exhibition will shed light on the recent history of Libya, starting with the reign of King Idris and spanning the regime of Colonel Gaddafi. The exhibition will highlight photography’s role in recording and documenting an important period in Libya’s history that we can only now begin to truly understand. Pictures and documents from state intelligence buildings and destroyed Gaddafi residences that were found by Human Rights Watch's emergencies director Peter Bouckaert, and recorded and photographed at the sites, will be presented. All original materials were left where they were found after being photographed or have been since been returned to the National Transition Council in Libya.
Coverage by the Guardian here (thanks rainbyte).  Previous coverage of seized documents from Libya is here, here, here, and here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Iraqi Jewish Archives Dispute Affecting U.S. Archaeological Teams in Iraq?

AK News is reporting (thanks Chuck Jones) that the "Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has stopped dealing with US archeology and exploration teams because the US administration has failed to fulfill its promises to return Iraqi antiquities that were transported to the US by the US forces in 2003."  Among the "historic remains" cited is:
a bulk of Jewish archives that were found in the basement of Iraqi intelligence services in Baghdad. The Iraqi officials have on several occasions requested from the US authorities to return the Jewish archives and other antiquities. Iraqi officials accuse the US of not intending to return those archives and other historic remains as they have not responded to the Iraqi requests.
The article adds a significant allegation (not unlike another recent allegation here) that the Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has:
information that indicates the archives ha[ve] been moved to Israel and that Israel describes the archives as Jewish heritage. "But that is Iraqi heritage. Therefore we have decided to cut our relations with the US regarding archeology. We have now stopped dealing with the US exploration teams in Thiqar and Duhok provinces."

U.S. Gov't Wants More Time to Consider Sanctions Against Russia Over Jewish Archives

A quick follow up on Judge Lamberth's recent invitation to the U.S. Government to provide its views regarding possible contempt sanctions against the Russian Federation, the Russian State Library, and the Russian State Military Archives for failing to surrender a Jewish library and archives in the Chabad v. Russian Federation case (for full background see here and here).  On Friday the U.S. government filed a two-page "status report" which asked for additional time until August 10, 2012 to respond noting:
The plaintiff's motion raises significant issues that require further consideration by the Executive Branch before a final decision can be made with regard to the response by the United States to the Court's order. The United States is actively engaged in its deliberations with respect to those issues. The United States expects to complete its deliberations by August 10, 2012, and intends to advise the Court of its position by that date. The United States respectfully requests that any decision addressing plaintiff's motion be deferred until it has completed its deliberations. The United States appreciates the Court's invitation and its consideration in this matter.

Friday, June 8, 2012

DEA No Longer has Copies of Captured Documents from Panama

Last year I submitted a FOIA request to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for copies of its copies of documents seized by the United States in Panama in 1989 and English translations of those documents made by Master Translating Services, Inc. (MTSI) pursuant to an agreement with the DEA.  MTSI translated thousands of the documents, which took approximately a year and for which the DEA paid more than $100,000.

I have received the DEA's response to my FOIA request, however, which states that the DEA was "unable to locate any records responsive to your request."  Like an earlier unsuccessful request to the DIA for its copies of the Ba'ath party documents obtained by the Iraq Memory Foundation, it could be that the DEA search simply failed to locate documents that are in fact in agency custody, but the result is, in any event, disappointing.

The DEA's response does not address an additional part of my request, which had asked for a copy of the records schedule that authorized the disposal of the records in the event they were not retained.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Allegation About Iraqi Jewish Archives in the U.S.

UPDATE: Following the Al Arabiya piece mentioned below (as well as a follow-up piece in the Times of Israel relying on Al Arabiya's reporting), Saad Eskander, head of the Iraqi National Library and Archives, wrote to the IraqCrisis list stating that he had not met with any Al Arabiya reporter and had not been interviewed by them.

Al Arabiya has a piece this week by Jawad Al-Hattab called "Israel suspected of seeking to 'steal' ancient Iraqi manuscripts transferred to U.S." that begins with a rather significant allegation: "The Iraqi minister of culture has said that the United States is delaying the return of original copies of ancient manuscripts that were illegally smuggled out of Iraq and reportedly sold to Israel."  The article states:
The manuscripts are part of the Jewish archive that was found in the basement of the Iraqi intelligence building following the 2003 American invasion. 
The archive was reportedly transferred to the United States for “maintenance purposes” provided that it would be returned to the Iraqi government by mid-2006. The archive, however, has not yet been transferred back to the Iraqi Archeology and Heritage Association. 
Iraqi media reports suggest that Israel was behind the stalling of the delivery of the archives and that the Jewish state was planning to obtain the historic manuscripts from its ally the United States. Arab League Deputy Secretary General Ahmed ben Helli has confirmed attempts by Israel to steal ancient Iraqi archives. 
“Iraq has been subjected to the biggest theft of its manuscripts and historic treasures,” he said. “Israel is accomplice to this.” 
For earlier coverage of the debate over the return of the Iraqi Jewish Archives see here and here.

The Al-Arabiya piece also quotes Saad Eskander, head of the Iraqi National Library and Archives, regarding the larger group of seized Iraqi records that "filled 48,000 boxes and containers." Eskander asserts that the U.S. "has 90 percent of Iraq's historic archives in its possession."  The piece also states that "Deputy Minister of Culture Taher al-Hamoud said that the United States was delaying whenever asked by the Iraqi government to bring the collection back."

I have not previously heard the "90 percent of Iraq's historic archives" figure cited by Eskander, although in late January 2004 the Washington Post had an editorial called "Iraq's Archives" that used "80 percent." Despite the fact it is now more than 8 years old, the rest of that WashPo editorial also still seems just as relevant today:
Not surprisingly, it hasn't yet been at the top of anybody's priority list. But the long-term fate of the archives of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime deserves more attention than it has received from U.S. authorities in Iraq. When coalition forces captured Baghdad, they took control of some 80 percent of the former Iraqi regime's documents -- hundreds of millions of pieces of paper -- and moved them to an undisclosed location outside Iraq. The only people who have been allowed to look at them are members of the Iraqi Survey Group, the U.S. intelligence unit seeking weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Although some in the Pentagon leadership say they are aware of the issue, there are still no clear plans for these documents, and officials seem uncertain as to whether decisions about them will be made in Washington or Baghdad, by the CIA or the Pentagon. Yet their fate is critical to the future stability of Iraq. These files contain names of victims and names of torturers -- and could therefore play a role in revenge killings and blackmail, as some of the documents not under coalition control already do. More important, they will also eventually provide the first real history of the regime. They should therefore form the centerpiece of the trial of Saddam Hussein. Yet, though it seems some coalition investigators may be allowed access to the files to begin looking for human rights abuses, no Iraqis have been given access and there is no indication that they will be.
This is a mistake. As long as the documents are solely under U.S. control, they will serve as a focus for rumors and conspiracy theories. As long as there is no general law governing the use of such documents, there will continue to be arguments in Iraq over who has the right to control them. Already, disputes have broken out over the proper "ownership" of some of the documents not under coalition control. There are also rumors in Iraq of U.S. plans to divide what should be the country's national archive among different groups and political parties. What is needed now is not a division of the collection but a clear set of rules governing the storage and use of the documents, which must be returned to Iraq and placed under Iraqi control as soon as possible.

"Temporarily Unavailable" CIA Records Schedules

Lauren Harper has a piece on Unredacted (the blog of the National Security Archive) highlighting the unexplained disappearance of 27 CIA records schedules that were previously available on the National Archives website. Lauren provides the list of those earlier schedules courtesy of the Internet Archive.  Just to follow up, I am posting below 24 of the 27 of the removed - "temporarily unavailable" - schedules in full-text (which I had downloaded before they were pulled):

Arms Control Inspection Files: N1-263-92-2

Center for Weapons Intelligence File Series Identification - Records: N1-263-02-4

CIA - Historical Review Program Files: N1-263-97-2

CIA - Maps: N1-263-06-2

CIA - Star Gate Records: N1-263-02-1

CIA - Posters - Agency Officials, Facilities, Operations, Achievements, Historical Commemorations, Other Mission-Related Subjects: N1-263-98-1

CIA - Absence of SF 115 for Job No. N1-263-93-02: File for N1-263-93-02

Cover Files: N1-263-97-3

File Series Identification: Directorate of Intelligence, Trade Data Aggregation and Recovery System (TRADAR): N1-263-02-3

File Series Identification: Gray Literature: N1-263-03-1

Financial Disclosure Form (FDF): N1-263-99-2

Grombach Files: N1-263-07-8

Intelligence Document Collection - NFIB (excepte CIA and Non- NFIB Reports): N1-263-93-3

Investigative Files CIA: N1-263-95-1

Media Highlights CIA: N1-263-08-1

Office of Foreign Assets Control Files: N1-265-91-01

Operational Activity Files: N1-263-06-1

Other Government Agency Referral Files: N1-263-02-2

Records of the Pacific Corporation: N1-263-00-1

Schedules of Daily Activities, CIA: N1-263-99-3

Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States - National Commission Records - September 11, 2011: N1-263-05-1

Thrift Savings Plan Files - 1986-Present: N1-263-97-1

Troy Working Papers: N1-263-87-1

Working Files: N1-263-03-2