AHA Roundtable on National Security Archive v. Central Intelligence Agency

On May 20, 2014, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that the Central Intelligence Agency did not have to release the last volume of its own in-house history of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Between 1973 and 1984, an agency historian worked on several volumes regarding the embarrassing episode, and the agency has not been eager to open these internal accounts to public scrutiny.

Following the ruling by the US Court of Appeals, we asked several historians to reflect on the case and help explain to other historians, and the general public, what it means. In this round of short essays, we have a reflection by Kenneth McDonald, former chief historian of the CIA, who decided that Volume V should not be published internally. McDonald here discusses that episode and reflects on what it means to do history within the CIA, for the CIA. Nate Jones of the National Security Archive, which brought the suit against the CIA to release the volume, argues that the court’s decision is not at all narrow; in fact, it creates a new way for agencies to hide embarrassing information. And Michael Bustamante, a historian of Cuba, Latin America, and the Caribbean, places this episode in the context of the larger memory wars over the Bay of Pigs still taking place in the United States and Cuba.

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