Villanova Professor Sues CIA Over … Bay of Pigs?!

Political science professor David Barrett explains.

Villanova professor David Barrett on CNN.

Villanova professor David Barrett on CNN.

Villanova political science professor David Barrett knows more than most about the Central Intelligence Agency. The university boasts that Barrett is actually “one of the country’s leading experts on the critical relationship between the United States Congress and the … CIA,” and Barrett has authored two books about the agency. And now, he’s taking the CIA to court.

Naturally, some explanation is in order.

It all started in 2005, back when the Louisiana native was in his fifteenth year of teaching at the school. Barrett was down in Washington, D.C., doing some academic research at the National Archives, when he spied a curious box just sitting around.

“It was marked ‘CIA Miscellaneous,'” Barrett recalls. He opened the box, of course, finding a lengthy document inside. It turned out to be one of five volumes on the Bay of Pigs invasion written by Jack Pfeiffer, who worked as the CIA’s own historian.

The volume had been declassified. Barrett gave it a read and found some surprising information inside. He said one account in the volume explained that prior to the Bay of Pigs invasion, the CIA director met with the heads of large corporations that had big money in Cuba.

“He was telling them, ‘We’re going to do something,'” explains Barrett. “He was seeking their advice, and that always struck me as improper. You’re the CIA. You’re supposed to keep things, you know, secret.”

Prior to his death in 1997, Pfeiffer attempted to get his Bay of Pigs history declassified but was unsuccessful. Eventually, the CIA did declassify four of the five volumes, but there’s one more volume that’s still being kept secret, and the CIA won’t give it up.

Barrett is working on a new book, an in-depth analysis of the relationship between the Kennedy White House and the CIA, and so he’s dying to get his hands on the fifth volume. He’s submitted three Freedom of Information Act requests with the CIA in an attempt to get the agency to release the document, but the CIA hasn’t.

“It’s just crazy,” insists Barrett. “It’s been over half a century. The government classifies things for way too long.”

According to Barrett, part of the CIA’s reasoning for withholding the final volume is that the volume is incomplete. (The CIA declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.)

“The CIA says that it’s an unfinished draft,” says Barrett. “They’ve made the argument that it would ruin the quality of their history if their historians are worried that in the future, their unfinished historical writings might be made available for public consumption, that it would chill their history-writing efforts.”

Thanks to a new FOIA reform bill signed by President Barack Obama in June, Barrett might have a little more luck going forward, but then again, this is the CIA that we’re talking about. Transparent they are not.

And in the end, Barrett says that he’s not certain what the document will reveal, although it’s expected that the final volume might contain Pfeiffer’s analysis of just what went wrong at the Bay of Pigs.

“You never know, though,” Barrett concedes. “The first volume was incredibly fascinating, but to be completely honest, the other three volumes were actually pretty boring.”

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