Throughout the past year, according to WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief Julian Assange, the organization has been working on the release of more than one and a half million US diplomatic records from the period between 1973 and 1976. Over 200,000 of them relate specifically to former US Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.
The media organization held a press conference on the release in Washington, DC. Spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson explained this was part of an effort to combat the reclassification of documents. In 2006, the National Archives and Records Administration reported that 55,000 pages of records from the CIA and other federal agencies had been reclassified.
“We are doing what the government should be doing to make this easily accessible to everyone,” Hrafnsson.
Assange told the press that in 2009, despite opposition to the reclassification of public records, the process had continued.
For the release, WikiLeaks partnered with 18 media organizations: The Age (Australia), Pagina 12 (Argentina), Publica (Brazil), Bivol (Bulgaria), Al Masry Al Youm (Egypt), Ta Nea (Greece), Plaza Publica (Guatemala), Haiti Liberte (Haiti), The Hindu (India), L’Espresso (Italy), Al Akhbar (Lebanon), La Jornada (Mexico), Publico (Spain), Aftonbladet (Sweden), AP (UK) and The Nation (US).
Publica reported the US had established a torture exception for the Brazilian military so that it could provide aid to the military dictatorship in Brazil.
From the diplomatic communication sent by US ambassador in Brasilia, John Crimmins, on March 12, 1976 that was marked “confidential”:
AMBASSADOR, EMBASSY OFFICERS, AID REPRESENTATIVES, AND SENIOR OFFICERS OF US MILITARY MISSION HAVE DISCUSSED HUMAN RIGHTS WITH APPROPRIATE BRAZILIAN OFFICIALS, AND EMBASSY AND CONSULATE OFFICERS, AND USIS THROUGH CAREFULLY TARGETED INFORMATION PROGRAM, HAVE ALSO SOUGHT TO CONVEY US CONCERN IN CONTACTS WITH CONGRESSMEN, JOURNALISTS, LAWYERS, POLICE OFFICIALS, AND CHURCHMEN. AMBASSADOR’S SPEECH ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN US CONS-TITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND VIGOROUS EMBASSY EFFORTS ON BEHALF OF US CITIZEN FRED MORRIS GAVE IMPORTANT SUPPORT TO THIS END. IN THAT TORTURE IS SEEN AS PRACTICE OF SMALL MINORITY RATHER THEN OF BRAZILIAN MILITARY AS AN INSTITUTION, US SECURITY ASSISTANCE IS NOT SEEN AS FUELING REPRESSIVE PRACTICES. [emphasis added]
Natalia Viana for Publica wrote, “In many orders, representatives show Americans to be fully aware of the torture committed by agents of repression. Even so, the US invested heavily in arming and training the Brazilian military and considered this strategic assistance to maintain proximity with the military in power.” Particularly, one captain of the Brazilian army received “special forces” training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for “over 13 weeks.” When Congress questioned US government support for South American dictatorships, “the State Department tried to cancel the course.”
From a confidential order, this captain’s training was canceled once. Just as it was to be canceled a second time, potentially, a US diplomatic communication warned:
…IN THIS COUNTRY WHERE COTERIES EXIST AROUND EVERY SENIOR OFFICER, THE CANDIDATE SELECTED IS THE AIDE TO A POLITICALLY POWERFUL AND SENIOR GENERAL. WE WILL, OF COURSE, LOSE SOME GOODWILL WE HAD HOPED TO GAIN IF WE CANCEL A SECOND TIME…
The Hindu was one of the first to begin publishing revelations from the records. The records unveil some of what was going on during what was a turbulent time in Indian history. [cont’d]
According to one report, “Fiery Socialist labour leader George Fernandes sought to get funding from the American Central Intelligence Agency and the French government while he was underground organising sabotage activities.” He liked to “project himself as a sworn enemy of American imperialism and foreign capital” yet in 1975 he was willing to accept CIA money. In another story, The Hindu indicated it had discovered, “Much before he became Prime Minister, during his years as an Indian Airlines pilot, Rajiv Gandhi may have been a middleman for the Swedish company Saab-Scania, when it was trying to sell its Viggen fighter aircraft to India in the 1970s.” (A discovery that members of Indian Congress are already trashing, as they accuse Assange of “spreading lies and falsehoods.”)
Many of the media organizations, including The Hindu, were involved in this project were partners on the release of US diplomatic cables, which began in November 2010.
The media organization described in a press release, “Most of the records were reviewed by the United States Department of State’s systematic 25-year declassification process. At review, the records were assessed and either declassified or kept classified with some or all of the metadata records declassified.” It further noted that even though there has been a review process for assessing documents after 25 years, there are no records later than 1976 in the release—an indication that the “formal declassification and review process” of these records is “running 12 years late.”
The release is more than “five times the size of WikiLeaks’ Cablegate.” The records “include more than 1.3 million full diplomatic cables and 320,000 originally classified records;” “more than 227,000 cables classified as ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ and 61,000 cables classified as ‘SECRET’. Perhaps more importantly, there are more than 12,000 documents with the sensitive handling restriction ‘NODIS’ or ‘no distribution’, and more than 9,000 labelled ‘Eyes Only’.”
Though the full extent of revelations is unknown at the moment (as was the case in 2010 when the US State Embassy cables from the 2000s were released), what is clear is WikiLeaks has effectively taken another action to challenge the US’ abuse of secrecy powers. In this case, records that should have been available and known to the populations of countries around the world are now reading of how the US government engaged in coverups of human rights abuses and how US agencies formed alliances or relationships with opposition groups to advance agendas, etc.
The National Security Archive noted in 2006 that US State Department records had been “the worst hit” by this reclassification program:
According to figures released by the NARA, as of January 2006 a total of 7,711 formerly declassified State Department documents comprising 29,479 pages had been reclassified and removed from the public shelves of the National Archives. (Note 13) After the State Department, worst hit by the security reviewers have been the records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, from which 478 documents totaling 13,689 pages have been re-classified and removed from the public shelves at the National Archives since 2001. (Note 14) The third group of formerly declassified records that military and intelligence community screeners have intensively reviewed arethe records of the Headquarters of the U.S. Air Force, from which a total of 282 documents aggregating 5,552 pages have been re-classified and removed from public access at the National Archives. (Note 15)
Once again, WikiLeaks has brought truth to people of the world whom the US government has actively worked to keep in the dark so the government and its officials, including individuals like Kissinger who are still alive, do not have their legacies tarnished and so they can advance their own version of history—one devoid of key details on crimes and misconduct committed.
Additionally, the fact that WikiLeaks managed to coordinate this release with 18 media organizations, generate interest in the release by calling it the “Special K” project and then do a launch right before a press conference that garnered good coverage, especially when considering it was Sunday night in the United States, is proof that WikiLeaks is not dead. It still is functioning and can still have an impact as a media organization that not only checks the abuse of secrecy by governments but also acts as an example to press organizations around the world of what they should be doing to confront power.
To browse the entire set of records released, here is the searchable database put together by WikiLeaks.