February 22, 1998
Contact person: Peter Kornbluh


Withheld 36 years, IG Report Blasts CIA Handling of Cuba Invasion

[Click here to go to the report.]

Washington D.C.: A key document in the history of covert warfare, the CIA's own internal investigation into the April 1961 debacle at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, was made public today. The top secret 150-page report, officially known as "The Inspector General's Survey of the Cuban Operation," castigates the Agency for misinforming Kennedy administration officials, bad planning, inadequate intelligence, treating rebel leaders as "puppets," and conducting an overt military operation beyond "Agency responsibility as well as Agency capability."

The report, one of the most tightly held secret documents of the Cold War and CIA covert operations against Cuba, was obtained after a two year Freedom of Information Act effort by the National Security Archive, a foreign policy documentation center which is a project of the nonprofit Fund for Peace, Inc. The Archive, located at The George Washington University, today published the document and its attachments on its website.

Peter Kornbluh, who directs the Archive's Cuba Documentation Project and filed the FOIA request, hailed the release as "an end to a cover-up of history." The report, he said, was "one of the most important examples of self criticism ever written inside the Agency. Had it been declassified years ago instead of hidden in secrecy, it would have changed the public debate over covert operations--against Cuba and elsewhere."

The "highly critical" report, written by CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick in October 1961, after a six month internal investigation, so offended senior officials that then CIA director John McCone ordered all but one copy destroyed. The original report, along with angry rebuttals written by the CIA officials in charge of the invasion, remained locked in a safe in the director's office. "In unfriendly hands, it can become a weapon unjustifiably to attack the entire mission, organization, and functioning of the Agency," states an attached memo by Gen. C.P. Cabell, then deputy CIA director.

In a lengthy response to the "black picture" painted by the Kirkpatrick report, CIA deputy director of plans Richard Bissell blamed the "political requirement of deniability" for the invasion failure and held "senior policy makers"--a reference to President Kennedy--responsible for decisions that compromised the invasion.

The Archive, in collaboration with Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, has recently published a book of new evidence on the invasion, Politics of Illusion: The Bay of Pigs Invasion Reexamined, edited by James Blight and Peter Kornbluh. "The public now has access to one of the most guarded secrets of the CIA's dark past," according to Kornbluh. "Hopefully, the Agency's decision to declassify this and other historical documents reflects an new understanding that an informed citizenry is fundamental to a healthy democracy."

About the National Security Archive's Cuba Documentation Project

The IG Bay of Pigs Report

Today, following two years of efforts under the Freedom of Information Act, a report documenting the CIA's internal investigation of the Bay of Pigs debacle was made public. Entitled "The Inspector General's Survey of the Cuban Operation," the report criticizes almost every aspect of the Agency's handling of the operation, including the misinforming of Kennedy administration officials, poor planning, faulty intelligence, treating rebel leaders as "puppets," and conducting an overt military operation beyond "Agency responsibility as well as Agency capability."

Archive Publications on Cuba

Click here for more information about Politics of Illusion from Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

In January 1998, the Archive, along with Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, released Politics of Illusion: The Bay of Pigs Invasion Reexamined. Edited by Brown University professor of international relations James G. Blight and Archive senior analyst Peter Kornbluh, Politics of Illusion is an oral history of the events leading up to the disastrous landing at the Bay of Pigs. An invaluable addition to the historiography of covert operations and U.S.-Cuban relations, the book is the result of a series of conferences which brought together the operation's most important players and the leading scholars in the field. Previous Cuba-related projects of the Archive include: The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962, a microfiche collection which brings together over 15,000 pages of government documentation, much of it previously classified, relating to the events surrounding the Cuban missile crisis; and The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962, a document reader edited by Laurence Chang and Peter Kornbluh which brings together material from the microfiche collection as well as documents newly-obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

About the Archive

The National Security Archive is a non-profit research institute and library located on the campus of the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The mission of the Archive is to serve scholars, students, journalists, Congress, public-interest organizations, and concerned citizens by obtaining and disseminating internal U.S. government documentation that is indispensable for informed public debate on foreign policy issues.

About Peter Kornbluh

Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archive senior analyst and Latin America specialist, directs the Archive's project on U.S.-Cuban relations and serves as an adjunct professor of international affairs at Columbia University. He co-edited Politics of Illusion: The Bay of Pigs Invasion Reexamined (Lynne Rienner, 1998), The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962 (The New Press, 1992), and The Iran Contra Scandal: The Declassified History (The New Press, 1993) and is the author of numerous articles on U.S.-Latin American relations.

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