Tuesday, August 11, 2009

State's Office of the Historian Corrects an Omission

The History News Network (HNN) has a nice item about the State Department's Office of the Historian and a revision the HO has agreed to make to its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. The HNN item is partly based on a July article in Secrecy News, which, incidentally, includes two long and interesting comments by "Former Archivist" concerning the historical value of Nixon Administration telephone recordings in the possession of the National Archives.

According to HNN:

In the early 1970s, the Nixon Administration plotted to interfere in Uruguay’s presidential elections in order to block the rise of the leftist Frente Amplio coalition. But when the State Department published its official history of U.S. relations with Latin America during the Nixon era last month, there was no mention of any such activities. Instead, the State Department Office of the Historian said that Uruguay-related records could not be posted on the Department website because of “space constraints.” Following repeated inquiries, however, the Historian’s Office revised its position last week and said it would include Uruguay-related records in its Nixon history after all.

But none of this concern over Uruguay could be discerned from the State Department’s official history of U.S. policy towards the region. A July 10, 2009 State Department press release announcing the publication of the latest online volume of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) on American Republics, 1969-1972, mentioned almost every Latin American country except for Uruguay. [TSB Note: see it here] The original Preface of the new FRUS volume (pdf) made the peculiar assertion that: “Due to space constraints, relations with… Uruguay… are not covered here.” This assertion is doubly strange since the new FRUS volume was only published online, not in hardcopy, so that “space constraints” are hardly a factor.

-- snip --

But in a brief email message on July 30, FRUS Acting General Editor Dr. William B. McAllister wrote: “We have revised the Preface. This should clarify the situation.” The revised Preface to the new FRUS volume now states that a chapter on Uruguay “will be added” following completion of the declassification process. The newly revised Table of Contents includes a placeholder listing for Uruguay. There is no indication of what records may be declassified, or when they might become available.

All in all, this seems like a sign of good management at the new, improved, Office of the Historian.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight. First, under the "new, improved, Office of the Historian," the State Department fails to acknowledge the existence of a chapter on Uruguay. Then the "new, improved, Office of the Historian" changes its tune to lie about the existence of a chapter on Uruguay, lamely claiming that one was never done due to "space considerations." Then, the "new, improved, Office of the Historian," changes its tune yet again, but only after Steve Aftergood (author of the HNN piece) takes them to task over this issue.

The bottom line here is that after 8 years of progressively improving openness, the first public act by the "new, improved, Office of the Historian" is to lie to the American people and, by extension, violate the spirit and letter of the law. Acting General Editor Dr. William B. McAllister's terse reply to Aftergood's entreaties comes off like that of an irritated child who just got caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. This is a sign of "good management"??? What's next? More important, what else are the history wienies at State hiding?