House approves measure to investigate U.S. intelligence actions in 1970s Argentina

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The House of Representatives last week approved two secrecy-related amendments to the pending FY 2010 intelligence authorization act (HR 2701). The amendments and the bill itself await further action by the Senate.

An amendment by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) would require the Director of National Intelligence to identify records held by U.S. intelligence agencies that deal with human rights violations in Argentina committed by that country’s military dictatorship between 1976 and 1985, and to review such records for declassification (sec. 360). An amendment by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) would require the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to prepare a report “containing an analysis of the problem of over-classification and ways to address such over-classification” (sec. 358).

Argentina’s so-called “dirty war” in the 1970s was a national trauma that persists in living memory, involving the death and disappearance of tens of thousands of victims. “By passing this measure today,” said Rep. Hinchey, “Congress is helping to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the terrible human rights abuses committed by the despotic Argentinian regime of the 1970’s and 1980’s and helping to bring truth and justice to what was a horrific period in South America.”

Rep. Harman’s amendment would help to enlist the new Inspector General of the Intelligence Community in the process of intelligence classification reform. Under the Inspector General Act of 1978, only Congress can require the Inspector General to undertake this task. And the IG should be well-positioned to do so, with all of the necessary clearances and depth of access....

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