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Context of 'November 23, 2004: National Security Archive Obtains Documents Indicating CIA Knew in Advance about Venezuelan Coup'

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President Bush signs an executive order delaying the public release of millions of government documents, citing the need to more thoroughly review them first. The government faced an April 17 deadline for declassifying millions of documents at least 25 years old. [Reuters, 3/26/2003] The order countermands a 1995 executive order by then-President Bill Clinton, who mandated that government documents over 25 years old be automatically declassified unless there was “significant doubt” as to whether their release would damage national security. [New York Times, 3/21/2003] The order also treats all material sent to American officials from foreign governments, no matter how routine, as subject to classification. It expands the ability of the CIA to shield documents from declassification, giving the director the right to unilaterally block any declassification of agency documents. And for the first time, it gives the vice president the power to classify information. The New York Times says, “Offering that power to Vice President Dick Cheney, who has shown indifference to the public’s right to know what is going on inside the executive branch, seems a particularly worrying development.” [New York Times, 3/21/2003; New York Times, 3/28/2003] Historian Anna Nelson says of the decision: “This is in context with the way this administration has done the whole bit on secrecy. They have left a skeletal process.” But Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists is less harsh in his assessment, saying, “One might have expected a more aggressive, pro-secrecy policy than this draft.” Tom Blanton of the private National Security Archive says the provision to classify information from foreign governments is far too broad: “Making all foreign government information presumptively classified means we’re lowering our openness standard to the lowest common denominator of our ostensible allies.” [New York Times, 3/21/2003]

Entity Tags: Tom Blanton, Steven Aftergood, New York Times, George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Anna Nelson, Central Intelligence Agency, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The CIA appoints a new chief of its station in Kabul, Afghanistan. The chief, known only as “Peter,” will remain in the position for a year (see June 2004). [Washington Post, 10/22/2004]

Entity Tags: “Peter”, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, tells the CBS News “Early Show”: “Those soldiers were not following orders.” [CBS News, 5/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Peter Pace

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the private non-profit National Security Archive in Washington, tells Newsday that documents recently acquired by the National Security Archive provide “substantive evidence that the CIA knew in advance about the coup, and it is clear that this intelligence was distributed to dozens of members of the Bush administration, giving them knowledge of coup plotting.” [Newsday, 11/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Peter Kornbluh

Timeline Tags: US-Venezuela (1948-2005)

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