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At the Pentagon, once a secret, always a secret — even if everyone knows

President John F. Kennedy's televised announcement in 1962 of a naval blockade of Cuba until Soviet missiles are removed. (AP Photo) President John F. Kennedy’s televised announcement in 1962 of a naval blockade of Cuba until Soviet missiles are removed. (AP Photo)

And now, more news from the front in the never-ending battle to pry historical, formerly secret documents from the Pentagon. The latest  skirmish involves a 50-plus -year-old, formerly “top secret” document going back to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

The National Security Archive sent a Freedom of Information Act request for the information years ago for the 40th — and  then the 50th anniversary — (it’s a patient organization) as part of its plans for the anniversary of the crisis, which ended after Moscow removed its missiles from Cuba and Washington removed its missiles from another country.

Among the documents the Pentagon sent over was one that talked about having inspections certifying the missile removals by people “enjoying confidence” of the Soviets, us, the Cubans and [Deleted.]

The Archive appealed in 2009, pointing out that, Archive Director Tom Blanton tells us, while the Pentagon “wouldn’t give up the name” of the country where Washington had placed missiles, former Soviet chief Nikita Krushchev had broadcast it on Moscow radio at the time and the State Department had published it many years ago in its history of the crisis. (As had countless histories of the events.)

Still, not good enough for the Pentagon, which turned down the appeal in a denial letter from William Brazis, the department’s deputy director of administration and management.

The Air Force, meanwhile, has been much more forthcoming, releasing  the full text of a Joint  Chiefs of Staff document from that period, proposing  provocative actions such as  a hilarious “virtual” amphibious assault plan. (After all, the actual assault, at the Bay of Pigs, didn’t work out so well.)  They also propose an extensive “sabotage campaign against power facilities” and also to “assassinate leading Russians and Cuban communists.” The Pentagon version excised those details.

The archive is putting out the documents Friday.

Oh, and the name of the top-secret country? It’s Turkey. (But don’t tell anyone where you got that.)

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.



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Al Kamen · February 20, 2014

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