Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More CIA Records on Noam Chomsky the CIA Could Not Find

It turns out that there are even more CIA records on Noam Chomsky including memoranda indicating that the CIA was documenting Chomsky's activities specifically as part of the CIA's  CHAOS/MHCHAOS espionage program. Take a look, for example, at this:

You'll recall a couple of months ago John Hudson at Foreign Policy reported that the CIA was forced to admit that it had kept at least one record on Noam Chomsky, "Exclusive: After Multiple Denials, CIA Admits to Snooping on Noam Chomsky" which was based on this single CIA document recently obtained via a FOIA request by Kel McClanahan at National Security Counselors to the FBI on behalf of Chomsky biographer Fredric Maxwell, after the CIA had repeatedly denied possessing any such records.

Additional CIA records on Chomsky can be found in a collection of documents the CIA provided to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) which was established in 1976 to investigate the assassinations of JFK and MLK. The collection is known as the "Segregated Collection" of CIA documents provided to the HSCA and its contents began to be cleared in the 1990s following the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.  The awesome Mary Ferrell Foundation has a database consisting of these records that is full-text searchable and in which is found a number of CIA records further evidencing CIA documentation on Chomsky:

(1) The first record is a CIA list from October 1967 listing Chomsky (twice, one crossed out) in an alphabetical list.

What does this list refer to?

According to the Church Committee report on the CHAOS program (p. 691), the CIA "intensified" its inquiry into "American dissidents" specifically in October 1967 contemporaneous with the October 1967 peace demonstrations at the Pentagon and in connection with the CIA producing a study on "International Connections of the U.S. Peace Groups" in November 1967.  The list appears to document a CIA search for information about the named individuals.  Note at the top it states in type and handwriting "NPII in RID But Listed By [CIS] in VN Protest [Run]"

My working theory is that this means the CIA was running the names against its records.  For Chomsky and the others on this list the result was "NPII in RID" which likely means they found NPII "No Pertinent Indentifiable Information" in the "RID" system (as in the "RID" name check in this unrelated CIA record).  But according to the handwritten note Chomsky and others may have been found in records of "CIS" [either CIA Counterintelligence Staff or CIA Current Interest Staff?] relating to Vietnam Protests.  This record could then potentially mark the beginning of CIA CHAOS/MHCHAOS documentation of Chomsky.

(2) The second record is the one pictured at the beginning of this post, a CIA memorandum dated July 1, 1970 requesting information on "contacts/activities in Hanoi of visitors of MHCHAOS interest" and including Noam Chomsky in a "list of known such visitors."  This record was made about a month after the record released via FOIA to the National Security Counselors (that noted Chomsky's "endorsement" of others traveling to North Vietnam). Note also the cryptonym notation "RYBAT" used with MHCHAOS.  RYBAT according to this helpful index, also from the Mary Ferrell Foundation, apparently indicated "extreme sensitivity."  In a different copy of this same document, ironically cleared by the CIA a year later, all the names, including Chomsky's, are redacted.

(3) The third record is a CIA report dated December 15, 1970 listing Noam Chomsky among "foreign invitees" to a "National Anti-War Conference" scheduled for Sydney, Australia in February 1971.

This document also is also marked with RYBAT and MHCHAOS.

an earlier version redacted these notations:

(4) The fourth record is a CIA memorandum dated Dec. 29, 1970 again listing Chomsky as a "foreign invitee" to the Anti-War Conference in Sydney.  In relation to Chomsky, it also references an additional May 1970 CIA Memorandum.

(5) The fifth record is a CIA memorandum dated April 7, 1971 to the FBI listing Chomsky as having traveled to North Vietnam in April 1970 based on a search of "computerized and other files of the [Central Intelligence] Agency" and providing dates of Chomsky's travel in Laos and North Vietnam. This record illustrates that Chomsky's name and information were, at least at that time, in a retrievable file within CIA.

So what does all this mean?  A couple of quick points.

Obviously these additional references found in a random collection of documents the CIA provided to the HSCA further confirm that the CIA did maintain records on Chomsky.  They also expressly confirm in at least one case (see (4) above) that the CIA had/has at least one more such document and they strongly suggest that the CIA likely had/have many more records on Chomsky.

This leads to one of two conclusions.  Either:

(A) the CIA still has all of these records (and perhaps many more), but its search in response to the FOIA requests did not locate them.  While I guess it is possible some could be in exempt operational files, the publicly available documents raise questions about the CIA's organization of, and its ability to retrieve, its older records (the CIA has repeatedly resisted transferring its records to the custody of the National Archives within the reasonable time periods that other agencies do);


(B) as suggested in John Hudson's Foreign Policy piece piece, the CIA destroyed all of their copies of these records. On this possibility note that this would not necessarily have been easy given that some of these documents indicate that copies were filed in multiple places:

If they were destroyed, it does raise questions about compliance with the Federal Records Act (as the Hudson piece notes), although such questions about the CIA would not be novel (see, e.g., the 1953 Coup in Iran, the CIA tapes, etc.).  In the case of the Chomsky documents and some other CHAOS records about U.S. persons, there could be an additional explanation: they could have been "purged" to "protect privacy." In a section on CHAOS entitled "Maintenance of Files on Americans" (at p. 717), the Church Committee noted, for example, (emphasis mine),
To the extent that information related to domestic activity, its maintenance by the CIA, although perhaps not itself the performance of an internal security function, is a step towards the dangers of a domestic secret police against which the prohibition of the [CIA] charter sought to guard. Specific standards are required for the retention of such material when its direct availability in the CIA's own files is necessary for legitimate foreign intelligence purposes and the Agency has acquired it propertly. In addition, the CIA can be required to purge existing files in conformity with the new standards, and where appropriate, to purge name indexes as well.
This raises again the issue I previously discussed in relation to retention of surveillance information by the NSA.  The drive to prevent retention of, or purge, U.S. person data collected by intelligence agencies in order to "protect privacy" is in some tension with the value of retaining it for accountability purposes.  The Chomsky file is a good illustration. CIA may have purged its materials on Chomsky in compliance with guidelines theoretically designed to protect his privacy, but such an action has the negative effect of creating the impression -- now demonstrably false -- that the CIA never had any.

Friday, October 25, 2013

30th Anniversary of Grenada Invasion & Captured Documents

Michael Leeden has a piece on the Daily Beast entitled "Remembering The Invasion of Grenada 30 Years On" (thanks to Kevin Woods), which highlights some interesting details about both the invasion and the documents seized by U.S. forces there (previous coverage of the Grenada documents is here).  Leeden states:
In the course of the US occupation, the archives of the New Jewel Movement regime—some 35,000 pounds’ worth of documents—were captured, and, after being sprayed for scorpions and spiders, flown to Washington.  The late Herbert Romerstein (as an employee of USIA) and I (as a part-time consultant to the Departments of State and Defense) were asked to organize the documents into an archive.  The work took a bit more than a year, and in November, 1984, we published a selection of documents, and shortly thereafter the whole lot was made publicly available in the National Archives.
The US military was not the only source of documents.  The diary of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was found by some adventurous journalists from Soldier of Fortune magazine, and they swapped them with us, in exchange for copies of “our” documents.
It’s rare that one gets such a clear documentary picture of a secretive totalitarian regime and, aside from some Spanish-language material, it’s all in English.
The collection of Grenada Documents chosen by Leeden and Romerstein (they also wrote the introduction) is called Grenada Documents: An Overview and Selection the Daily Beast piece links to the Amazon page - the full-text of that publication is, however, available online here courtesy of the HathiTrust Digital Library as well as here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

CTC Launches Online Militant Imagery Project

The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has launched an online version of the Militant Imagery Project, which is rather interesting.  The Project has a searchable database of images such as this one:

along with an "Image Analysis" such as:
The dominant element of the image is the red rays, which are significant, as red is the color of fire, blood, passion, impulse and danger. Light rays are often used to illuminate other symbols or text in an image to give them an aura of divinity and/or afterlife. At the center of the rays is a Palestinian flag that bears the shahada (Islamic testimony of faith holding that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger). The flag is held by a group of men, identified as fighters by the fact that their faces are covered by the kafiyya (head scarf). The text is a Qur’anic quote (Q 8:39), written in Indonesian.
It seems that the image, via the posture of the soldiers and the way they are holding the flag, is trying to imitate the famous United States Marine Corps War Memorial (also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial), located in Arlington, Virginia. By doing so, the image evokes notions of bravery and sacrifice on the battlefield and absolute commitment to the mission/struggle. 
The larger purposes of the Project are described by the CTC like this:
The use of propaganda and imagery by terrorist groups has long been an understudied dimension of the broader field of political violence. This project explores the use of imagery and visual themes by militant groups, focusing largely on jihadist media production. Jihadist organizations and individuals inspired by their message are prolific producers and distributors of visual propaganda, and their efforts have expanded exponentially online. However, these images frequently utilize themes which can be inscrutable to those not familiar with the sub-culture. It is our hope that this project will provide academics, practitioners, and students with a basic contextual understanding of the ideas these images convey before they turn to the larger questions of why they are employed, how they work, and what responses they may elicit.
The First Edition of this project was completed in 2006. The second phase (2010-2013) included indexing the project’s initial images, expanding and incorporating new images, and putting all of the images online in a searchable format. Particular attention was given to groups who use images to further financial, material, and ideological support for violence. The imagery dataset provides not just a textual analysis, but also full translation, if texts are part of the image, and a search engine for those interested in specific visual motifs. While by no means an exhaustive list, we feel it provides a sample of the most influential and prominent images and themes. We hope it will serve as a useful tool for practitioners, academics and the general public. Contingent upon funding and interest, we hope to update the dataset to highlight visual themes of additional militant groups in the future.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sen. Schumer Calls on State Department Not to Return Jewish Archives to Iraq

I will have a longer post on the ongoing debate over the fate of the Jewish archives discovered in Iraq in 2003, but quickly this breaking news that Sen. Charles Schumer has today written to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the State Department to reconsider the decision to return the materials to Iraq. The press release is here and the text of the letter is republished below:

Dear Secretary Kerry,
I write today out of deep concern over the decision to return over 2,700 pieces of Iraqi Judaica to Iraq next year. These treasured artifacts belong to the Jewish community and I ask that you do everything in your power to ensure that these artifacts remain available and accessible to Jews worldwide – especially the exiled Iraqi Jewish community.
In 2003, American soldiers found the collection of Iraqi Judaica in a flooded Baghdad Intelligence Center, and the United States has spent over $3 million dollars preserving the collection. The collection, which includes partial Torah parchments and ancient prayer books, had been seized by Saddam Hussein’s troops and belonged to members of the exiled Iraqi Jewish community. This priceless collection of Judaica includes a Hebrew Bible with commentaries from 1568, a Babylonian Talmud from 1793, a Torah scroll fragment from Genesis, a Zohar from 1815 and other sacred ritual objects.
Items in the collection were seized by Saddam Hussein in 1984 from a Baghdad synagogue. Iraqi Jews placed the collection there during their mass exodus in the early 1950s. In the 1940s, outbreaks of anti-Jewish rioting occurred and in 1948, Zionism was made a capital crime. Between 1950-1952, more than 130,000 Jews left Iraq and were not allowed to carry more than one suitcase each. When the United States attempted to assist Iraqi Jews who wished to leave Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003, just 34 Jews were found in the entire country – a mere shadow of a 2,500 year old community which at its height numbered over 130,000 people.
These items belong to the people who were forced to leave them behind when the Iraqi government chose to exile them from their homes. Since the exile of Jews from Iraq virtually no Jewish life remains in the country – this treasured collection belongs to the Jewish community and should be made available to them. I strongly urge you to reconsider your decision to return these artifacts to the Iraqi government and urge you to work with Jewish organizations and the Iraqi Jewish community both in the United States and abroad to find a location to store and display these cherished items in a manner which respects their history. 
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer