Court refuses to open records of conversation between diplomat and Saddam Hussein
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Records of the long- disputed conversation in 1990 between former U.S. ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a dialogue that occurred one week before Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, will remain classified even though Glaspie gave her version of the contents of the records in public testimony before congressional committees at the end of the Persian Gulf War.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., (D.C. Cir.) ruled in mid-December that Glaspie’s revelations of facts in testimony did not waive the government’s right to claim exemptions for the underlying records.
The New York Times had published a transcript of the meeting supplied by Hussein, which suggests that Glaspie told Hussein the U.S. would not object if Iraq took military action against Kuwait. Glaspie was recalled shortly before the Gulf War began. When the Gulf War ended, Senate and House committees summoned her to explain what had transpired at her meeting with Hussein.
Public Citizen filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all state department records of the Glaspie-Hussein meeting in March 1991 shortly after Glaspie testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Middle East Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In response to the FOI request, the government withheld six documents and portions of eight others claiming Exemption 1 to the FOI Act, which protects classified records, and Exemption 5, which protects internal memoranda written in the course of decisionmaking. The public interest group sued in federal district court in Washington, D.C.
In April 1992 the district court ruled that even though Glaspie’s testimony concededly disclosed certain facts contained in classified cables between her office and the Department of State, the context in which the information appeared in the cables between Glaspie and the State Department differed significantly from the context in which it was presented in testimony before Congress.
The appeals court upheld that decision in mid-December.
(Public Citizen v. Department of State; Counsel: Alan Morrison, Washington, D.C.)