CORRESPONDENT'S LETTER BY DON BOHNING
Bay of Pigs issues still unanswered
It was a major coup when the National Security Archive, a nongovernmental
documentation center in Washington, recently obtained the declassification of a
controversial CIA inspector general's report on the ill-fated 1961 Bay of Pigs
invasion of Cuba.
But, according to the Archive's Peter Kornbluh, the 150-page report by
Lyman B. Kirkpatrick is only the tip of a paper iceberg still stashed away at the
agency's headquarters in Langley, Va.
He estimates there are still about 30,000 pages of CIA operational documents
related to the Bay of Pigs that remain secret, of which perhaps 10 percent -- or
3,000 pages -- is expected to be declassified soon.
Kornbluh, a senior analyst who heads the Archive's Cuba documentation project,
has been engaged in a 10-year effort to obtain documents related to U.S.-Cuba
relations since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.
That effort helped obtain the release some years ago of 10,000 pages of
documents related to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and a small number relating to
the Bay of Pigs.
Documents still withheld
Only several hundred pages of Bay of Pigs documents have been released
CIA, including the lone remaining copy of Kirkpatrick's report, which came after a
two-year effort by the Archive.
The remaining still-classified documents, Kornbluh contends, ``continue
withheld because members of the directorate of operations [clandestine services]
are concerned that they will reflect badly on the early history of the CIA.''
Among the significant ones still to be released, Kornbluh says, is the
report by the Taylor Commission -- headed by the late Gen. Maxwell Taylor --
which analyzed the invasion for the Kennedy administration. Portions of the Taylor
report were released years ago, but the complete document remains classified.
Also yet to be declassified, Kornbluh says, is a four-volume internal history
invasion written by the late Jack B. Pfeiffer, an agency historian.
Pfeiffer himself wanted to see his work declassified and before his death
CIA unsuccessfully for its release.
Still another document that remains secret is a 47-page ``after action''
written by Jack Hawkins, a retired Marine colonel who headed the paramilitary
staff for the Bay of Pigs invasion. Hawkins recently made a formal request for its
release, so far to no avail.
Jake Esterline, who headed the CIA's Bay of Pigs Task Force, has also requested
release of documents he authored, again so far without success.
Kornbluh believes it's too early to tell what unanswered questions might
answered by the still-secret Bay of Pigs documents.
Waiting for Cuba's story
Kornbluh notes, however, that history is usually written by the victors
and the full
story from the Cuban side has yet to be told.
``The thing that bothers me,'' Esterline says, ``is that the recent death
Piñeiro further closed the window of opportunity of ever understanding the full
extent, if any, of the Castro government involvement with the death of President
Piñeiro, known as Barba Roja (Red Beard), Cuba's longtime foreign
chief, died in a car crash in Havana this year.
``With [Che] Guevara also gone, there probably are only two or three, including
Castro himself, who would be familiar with things we have never understood,''