Over one and a half million US diplomatic records from between 1973 and 1976 have been published in a searchable database. Hundreds of thousands of the records involve Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
While many of the records were already declassified and published by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, they were difficult to search. WikiLeaks has created a database and made it easier for people in countries around the world to see what was happening diplomatically between their country’s government and the United States government.
Yesterday, revelations that made headlines included: a torture exemption for the Brazilian military so the US could continue to provide military aid; the Vatican believing claims of repression after Chilean coup in 1973 where Salvador Allende was assassinated were “propaganda”; a rather neurotic cable laying out a US diplomat’s “first impressions” of the newly-elected first woman prime minister in the UK, Margaret Thatcher; Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr is a long-time intelligence source for the US and new details on corruption case involving Del Monte banana company in Guatemala.
To search the full database of diplomatic records released, go here. Now, throughout the rest of the day and evening, there will be updates to this post highlighting cables media organizations have written about. I’ll also be drawing attention to some of the more interesting cables I come across while browsing through the database.
10:25 PM EST Some remarkable cables on motion pictures. The US State Department and Motion Picture Export Association cooperated to ensure profits and sales of American movies to foreign countries. In Chile, American films functioned as propaganda. The junta wanted them to “normalize” the domestic situation. (Pinochet was torturing and engaging in massive human rights abuses against Chileans.) Arab countries complained about the MPEA raising prices for films they wanted to run for “political” or “anti-Arab” reasons and threatened boycott. Henry Kissinger himself personally asked the US embassy in the Dominican Republic if Paramount could have permission to shoot the embassy for the sequel to The Godfather.
9:40 PM EST WikiLeaks has called attention to a group of cables showing the State Department heavily criticized Costa Gavras’ film, “State of Siege” in May 1973. The film depicted the kidnapping, interrogation and murder of Dan Mitrione, who worked for the US embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay, in early August 1970. It made “judgements on US programs in Uruguay,” according to one US cable.
“We believe the film contains misstatements, distortions and omissions of fact and chronology designed to show the public safety program, the aid program and US policy in general in Uruguay, and by extension in Latin America, in the worst possible light. It also apparently distorts greatly, if not falsifies, the situation in Uruguay in the last several years.”
9:35 PM EST Though from the Cablegate and not part of the Kissinger diplomatic records, here’s a 2006 cable from Venezuela receiving some attention, as it shows how USAID and NGOs worked to undermine President Hugo Chavez. Opening sentence of summary, “During his 8 years in power, President Chavez has systematically dismantled the institutions of democracy and governance.”
1:05 PM EST Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos had military chiefs stage a “drag show” during his birthday party celebration in September 1973. This happened because his wife, Imelda Marcos, instructed them to do so.
The cable itself shows how disgusted US diplomat William Sullivan was with the celebration:
THIS WHOLE AFFAIR WAS A SACCHARINE SUFFUSION OF SYCOPHANCY WHICH REMINDED ME UNHAPPILY OF THE HEYDAYS OF SUKARNO AND SIHANOUK. ALTHOUGH IMELDA WAS RESPONSIBLE, THE PRESIDENT SEEMED TO ENJOY IT AND APPEARED UNAWARE OF THE NEGATIVE VIBRATIONS AMONG HIS COURTIERS, ESPECIALLY THE SENIOR MILITARY, UPON WHOM SO MUCH OF HIS FUTURE PROGRAMS WILL DEPEND. ONLY THE MARCOS CHILDREN, TO THEIR CREDIT, APPEARED EMBARRASSED BY THE DISPLAY. TO PROVIDE THE FULL TENOR OF THE EVENT, I AM SENDING BY SEPARATE AIRGRAM THE FULL TEXT OF THE PRGRAM NOTES WHICH ACCOMPANIED THE CONCERTO COMMISSIONED FOR THE OCCASION.
What may be even more remarkable is that two days before his birthday he ordered 1500 local police units to consolidate and form one national police force. Unlike the “drag show,” Sullivan fully supported this move, as indicated by a cable sent out the same day as the one on the “drag show.”
1:00 PM EST The Hindu continues its coverage of the released diplomatic records by highlighting how the US Atomic Energy Commission knew India would be conducting its first nuclear test in 1974.
12:45 PM EST Guatemalan military requested C-47 aircrafts for “economic life and development of the country.” (Plaza Publica)
12:35 PM EST Philip Dorling for The Australian has published a story: “Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s ‘impulsive’ style and foreign policy ‘hobby horses’ caused the United States diplomatic concern,” but never were US bases in Australia at risk.
12:30 PM EST Publica in Brazil reports on an October 1973 cable showing a Government Accountability Office (GAO) team was headed to Brazil to do an audit of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) operations in the country. US ambassador to Brazil, John Crimmins, sought advice on what records to provide to the team:
…IN PARTICULAR WE REQUEST GUIDANCE ON RELEASING DOCUMENTS WHICH DEAL WITH THE FOLLOWING SUBJECTS:
(A) THE NARCOTICS ACTION PLANS, ESPECIALLY IN VIEW OF THE FACT THAT NOT ALL STRATEGY SUGGESTED IN THEM WAS APPROVED BY THE INTERAGENCY COMMITTEE IN WASHINGTON.
(B) TORTURE AND ABUSE DURING THE INTERROGATION OF PRISONERS.
(C) THE DEPARTMENT MF FEDERAL POLICE INTELLIGENCE CENTER.
(D) INFORMANT FILES, INCLUDING RECORDS OF PAYMENTS TO INFORMANTS.
(E) CONFIDENTIAL OPERATIONAL AND INTELLIGENCE CABLES.
(F) UNDERCOVER OPERATIONS, INCLUDING THE TRANSFER OF TOSCANINO FROM URUGUAY TO BRAZIL.
(G) BRAZILIAN CUSTOMS AND DEPARTMENT OF FEDERAL POLICE PLANNING PAPERS.
Toscanino is Francisco Toscanino, who was tortured in Brazil and extradited to the US for “conspiracy to traffic in drugs.”
To add context, Publica mentioned details from this court document describing the torture he experienced for over seventeen days. When Toscanino tried to admit evidence of abuse during his trial, it was deemed irrelevant.