For instance, the archive presents recently declassified documentation regarding U.S. ties to coup plotters, kidnappers and killers in Chile before and after the overthrow of the democratically elected (but dreaded socialist) presidency of Salvador Allende in 1973; one “paid CIA asset” was the head of Chile’s secret police who ordered the 1976 assassination of former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier in Washington, D.C. (An American associate of Letelier died with him in the car bombing within blocks of the White House.)
The cache of Chile documents — pried from the CIA by an act of Congress — was covered in the national press, yet there’s something chillingly bureaucratic in the original CIA documents. And documenting our secret government is the archive’s raison d’être. The Cuban missile crisis, shenanigans in Guatemala, the infamous Richard Nixon-Elvis Presley meeting … the NSA has rare dirt, and is routinely in court fighting for more.
To that end, the NSA is currently calling attention to a section of Senate bill 2507 that would make it a crime for government employees to leak classified information to the press or public — despite a variety of criminal and noncriminal penalties already available. The provision of the Intelligence Authorization Act has been debated neither on the floor of Congress nor in the press, and it has not been considered by the Judiciary Committee.
The bill, says the NSA, “would stifle public debate about the most serious matters of national defense and foreign policy.”
A few laws like this and we may never know what our government is doing — even a quarter-century after the fact.
W. Kim Heron