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CIA Withholds Bay of Pigs Documents, Claims Release Would "Confuse the Public"

Even 50 years after the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Central Intelligence Agency is still refusing to release its entire official history of the bungled operation.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the CIA explains that the final volume of its five-volume history should be withheld because -- hilariously -- it would "confuse the public with inaccurate historical information." Which is pretty much exactly what the CIA has been trying to accomplish ever since it botched the operation to topple Fidel.

"Prying the real historical secrets out of the agency can be the bureaucratic equivalent of passing a kidney stone," says Peter Kornbluh, a senior Cuba analyst at the National Security Archive, which has filed multiple suits to declassify Bay of Pigs info.

Kornbluh's group filed it latest suit seeking the final volume of the operation's history late last year. The group had already negotiated the release of the first three complete volumes and got their hands on an incomplete draft version of the fourth volume, which also included a disclaimer:

"...the release of an unfinished draft CIA history risks placing inaccurate or incomplete information into public domain," the CIA wrote. "This could cause scholars, journalists, and others interested in the subject at hand to reach an erroneous or distorted view of the Agency's role in the events as described in a draft or otherwise lead to public confusion."

The unreleased fifth volume is a history written by CIA historian Jack Pfeiffer, who actually sued the agency himself to try to declassify the work back in the 1980s. The history argues that the CIA case officers who organized the raid -- many of whom spent years recruiting in Little Havana and training would be Fidel-killers in the Everglades -- aren't to blame for the fiasco.

But in a response filed in court in December, the agency evokes an exemption applying to documents in an "inter-agency or intra-agency deliberative process." In other words, because the agency considers Pfeiffer's work a "draft," it believes taxpayers have no right to read his findings.

That argument "appears as weak as it is insulting," the National Security Archives writes on its blog.

Come April, when the Miami Herald will surely blanket its front page with 50-year anniversary stories, we'll likely still be in the dark about the full history of the fiasco.

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David Minsky is a U.S. Navy veteran and Tulane graduate who has experience reporting on stories from California, South Florida, and the Deep South. He has also won some journalism awards. Email or tweet David with story tips and ideas.
Contact: David Minsky