by Claire Bernish, Activist Post:
Documents recently dredged from the CIA’s massive database expose an effort by the former director to destroy documents evincing the agency’s illegal activities and operations.
That director — George H.W. Bush, who served in the role from January 1976 until January 1977 — went on to become the 41st President of the United States.
As MuckRock reports,
In 1976, Congresswoman Bella Abzug wrote to CIA Director George H.W. Bush about the existing moratorium on the destruction of CIA files. As the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Government Information and Individual Rights, which had jurisdiction over government information policy including FOIA and the Privacy Act, she wanted the moratorium extended — specifically, she wanted to ensure that Congress had time to enact legislation in response to the Church, Pike, and Rockefeller hearings and the resulting reports.
Preservation of records — the subject of acrimonious debate during the presidential election, thanks to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server and disappearing documents — is pivotal to government transparency and accountability. And for preventing alterations and staving off lies.
In a draft response to the congresswoman, the agency originally stated, “Destruction of Agency material will be in accordance with the recommendations of the President’s Commission on CIA Activities within the United States, Presidential directives and as permitted by law.”
But edits scribbled on this draft indicate transparency in procedural record-keeping not only didn’t matter to the Central Intelligence Agency, it directly countered Director Bush’s and the agency’s interests.
“Recommend deletion of bracketed paragraph,” “B” penned at the bottom — with brackets specifying the entire aforementioned sentence vowing to remain true to legal strictures.
A strikingly divergent message emerges in the next draft.
A decision as to the disposition of those files concerning activities which the President’s Commission considered illegal and improper has not been finalized and the moritorium [sic] on destruction is still in effect.
You can be assured that whatever action is taken regarding these files will be in the best interests of the individuals involved and the U.S. Government.
Ultimately, the agency again flip-flopped for the final draft by including the necessary, “Destruction of Agency material will be in accordance with Presidential directives and as permitted by law.”
Bush signed it — but the fact the agency at his behest considered protectionism for itself in writing cannot be discounted.
It could be definitively argued that conspicuous detail marked a brief moment of naked honesty for the CIA — as if the truth of what happens to records of nastier operations momentarily spilled onto the page.
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