PRESS RELEASE - August 20, 2002

Este comunicado en Español

For further information:
Carlos Osorio/Thomas Blanton 202/994-7000
National Security Archive (U.S.)
Victor Abramovich/Maria Jose Guembe
CELS (Argentina) 011 5411 4334 4200

STATE DEPARTMENT OPENS FILES ON ARGENTINA'S DIRTY WAR

New Documents Describe Key Death Squad Under Former Army Chief Galtieri

First Bush Administration Declassification Praised by Human Rights Monitors

Washington, D.C., August 20, 2002 George Washington University's National Security Archive and its Argentine partner NGO, the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), today praised the State Department's declassification of more than 4,600 previously secret U.S. documents on human rights violations under the 1976-83 military dictatorship in Argentina.

"The State Department under Secretary Powell - and previously under Secretary Albright - deserves credit for this historic release, which demonstrates again that openness serves our national security interest in democracy and human rights," said Thomas S. Blanton, Archive director. Victor Abramovich, director of CELS, said that the July 10 arrest of former Argentine dictator Galtieri and 40 other military veterans on human rights charges from the "dirty war" period made the State Department declassification even more urgent: "The documents will help clarify this case of great public importance, as well as the whole period of military rule."

The State Department last week shipped copies of the documents to the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires for distribution to the Argentine government and the groups of survivors and families of the disappeared - almost exactly two years after then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright promised the families to open U.S. files (16 August 2000). State will post the full set on its Website <http://www.foia.state.gov> and the National Security Archive posted today a selection of the most important new documents, with analysis by the Archive's Southern Cone project director Carlos Osorio, at <http://www.nsarchive.org/NSAEBB/NSAEBB73>.

Osorio worked with CELS to provide the State Department with a detailed chronology of key human rights cases from the "dirty war" period for State's use in its search and review process, which was largely completed by September 2001. The September 11 tragedy and Argentina's fiscal and political crisis in November held up release of the documents until now. Osorio commented, "These files provide a vivid chronology of a massive and indiscriminate counterinsurgency campaign," and noted that CIA and Pentagon documents were not included in the release. Among the new documents are:

  • an organizational chart of the primary Argentine death squad unit, Battalion 601 of military intelligence, with an explicit chain of command leading directly to Galtieri.
  • a specific description of the abductions by 601 that are the basis for the Galtieri arrest warrant, including new details on the cooperation of Brazilian military intelligence.
  • an Embassy cable reporting the Argentine military's embrace of "extra-judicial" tactics, because "the security forces neither trust nor know how to use legal solutions" and because "under present rules 'nobody' is responsible on the record for the executions."