Emailgate, The Prequel

Somebody Else Is Suing the State Department—To Get Kissinger’s Phone Calls

Here’s the other former Secretary of State whose hidden communications you should really care about.

Shaun Best/Reuters

Just a day after Hillary Clinton addressed the controversy surrounding her private emails this week, the Associated Press sued the State Department in an effort to reveal her emails and government documents. The move came following multiple unsuccessful Freedom of Information Act requests.

With “Email-gate” making big headlines, it was easy to miss that another organization is suing the State Department to force the release of another former Secretary of State’s communications.

Last week, the National Security Archive (a research institute based out of the George Washington University) filed a lawsuit seeking release of the last 700 transcripts Henry Kissinger’s phone calls. Kissinger left State in 1977 at the end of the Ford administration.

“This was a total coincidence,” William Burr, a senior analyst at the Archive, told The Daily Beast about the timing of the two lawsuits. The Archive is suing over what it describes as the “unnecessary delay” over releasing the documents.

“There’s a long legal history of this,” dating back to 2001, Burr explained. In 2007, the State Department withheld the 700 transcripts, claiming executive privilege.

“Why is there such a long delay for 700 documents?” Burr said. “It’s sort of hard to fathom. But what I’ve heard from sources is that the documents are stuck at the White House.”

The transcripts, which likely include Kissinger’s conversations with President Gerald Ford, could shed some new light on the controversial statesman’s role in arms control issues, U.S. relations with China, the Cyprus crisis, the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, and the Angola crisis.

The Archive is prepared to keep having their patience tried. “It’ll be up to the judge, and what happens happens,” Burr said. “Time will tell.”

For his critics, any revelations in these documents aren’t likely to change their opinions. Kissinger already has a lengthy rap sheet. Many have long highlighted his alleged complicity in major human rights violations, genocide, and war crimes during his time as Secretary of State and National Security Advisor.

He greenlit campaigns of mass murder in East Timor, Bangladesh, and Argentina. He was a party to murder and subversion of democracy in Chile. He was a key player in savaging Cyprus.

And perhaps his most notorious (alleged, shall we?) act was his role in sabotaging (on behalf of the Nixon presidential campaign) the 1968 Vietnam War peace talks—secret diplomacy that possibly violated the Logan Act. The Vietnam War was thus prolonged well into the Nixon era, allowing Kissinger ample time to oversee appalling campaigns in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner was, of course, still able to cement a reputation as a master statesman and a pop-culture fascination. Here he is participating in a celeb-filled dance video with Stephen Colbert:

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(Colbert’s coziness with Kissinger is bizarre when you consider that the future Late Show host has publicly blasted “the war crimes of Nixon.”)

Kissinger’s brand of diplomacy and charm also won him a fan in none other than Hillary Clinton.

“I relied on his counsel when I served as secretary of state,” Clinton wrote, in reviewing a book by her “friend” and fellow secretary. “He checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels.” She was wise enough to clarify that she and Kissinger “have often seen the world and some of our challenges quite differently, and advocated different responses now and in the past.”

Good to know.

In the meantime, you can read the Archive’s complaint below: