President Obama announced during his March 2016 visit to Argentina that the United States would embark on a comprehensive effort to identify additional records related to human rights abuses committed under Argentina’s dictatorship. In a ceremony to commemorate the victims of the dictatorship at the Parque de la Memoria in Buenos Aires, President Obama said, “to continue helping the families of the victims find some of the truth and justice they deserve, I can announce that the United States Government will declassify even more documents from that period including, for the first time, military and intelligence records, because I believe we have a responsibility to confront the past with honesty and transparency.”
On August 4th, Secretary Kerry delivered an initial set of newly declassified records to President Macri. Totaling approximately 1,000 pages, these records are primarily from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library, and George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.
Today, these records have been made available to the public at https://icontherecord.tumblr.com/, and will be made available at each of the Presidential Libraries.
The declassification project represents an historic effort by U.S. Government agencies and departments to search, identify, review for public access, and provide records that shed light on human rights abuses in Argentina between 1975 and 1984. In 2002, the United States declassified over 4,000 State Department cables and other documents from the period of the Argentine military dictatorship. These records have helped Argentina hold human rights abusers accountable, for example, by supporting Argentine criminal investigations involving human rights violations under the dictatorship.
This new effort – requested by Argentine President Mauricio Macri and human rights groups – involves over 14 U.S. Government agencies and departments, and is being led by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence (ODNI) with support from the White House. This project involves hundreds of hours of agency staff resources, including records managers, archivists, historians, and declassification and information access professionals. U.S. Government officials are searching their records for relevant information to review for potential public release. The responsive records are being reviewed on a “word-for-word” basis – a more exacting and revealing process than the typical reviews agencies conduct on their historical records, when they release or withhold entire records on a “pass-fail” basis.
U.S. Government agencies are conducting this declassification effort through five major tasks:
- The U.S. government is making available to the public records related to human rights abuses that occurred between 1975 and 1984 in Argentina. This is a comprehensive search of hundreds of Federal records series and hundreds of thousands of pages to identify relevant individual documents for review and potential release. The ODNI is coordinating an interagency public access review of relevant records. This review is expected to be completed in late 2017.
- The U.S. government is making records from the Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald W. Reagan and George H.W. Bush Presidential Libraries available to the public. Records from the Presidential Libraries are of great historical interest, given their importance in documenting U.S. decision-making at the highest level. Archivists at the four Presidential Libraries are searching their holdings for relevant documents and providing them for interagency review. This review is expected to be completed in late 2016.
- The U.S. government is making responsive portions from the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) available to the public. The President’s Daily Briefs are considered the CIA’s most important intelligence product, providing information on the most significant global national security issues. The release of the relevant portions of these PDBs is only the third time in history any PDBs have been declassified, and the first ever Carter-era PDBs publicly released. This review is expected to be completed in late 2016.
- The U.S. government is making previously withheld information from the Department of State’s 2002 declassification project available to the public. While the Department of State declassified its cables and records that provided evidence of human rights abuses, it withheld some information for national security classification or statutory-based restrictions. The Department of State and other relevant agencies are re-reviewing these cables and records in an effort to publicly release additional information. This re-review is expected to be completed in late 2016.
- The U.S. government is making the 1977-1981 Foreign Relations of the United States South America volume available to the public. The Historian’s Office at the Department of State is expediting the publication of this volume, with the goal of publishing the Argentina and Regional Issues chapters by late 2017.
The release of this initial set of documents is the first step in a lengthy and ambitious declassification process. In the coming months, there will be more records declassified from the four Presidential Libraries, followed by newly-declassified Federal agency and department records in 2017.
Direct to Declassified Records