AFRICANGLOBE – A researcher is one step closer to discovering if the US played a role in the 1962 arrest of Nelson Mandela near Howick in the then Natal province.
Mandela was posing as a driver of a white employer travelling to Johannesburg when he was bust in the Midlands.
Rumours were that the CIA had something to do with his arrest, and the question of who tipped off the CIA about Mandela’s whereabouts has been lingering since August 5, 1962.
But Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher and freedom of information activist (FOIA) Ryan Shapiro, known to many as the “FOIA superhero”, is closing in on the details.
Shapiro has repeatedly requested records mentioning Mandela from the archives of the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Defence Intelligence Agency and the FBI.
He’s been doing this since 2013, but most of his requests have been denied.
However, last week a federal judge ruled that Shapiro’s requests were reasonable and in line with other similar requests.
US district Judge Christopher Cooper said it was clear which records Shapiro would like to review.
“Regardless of how onerous it might be to locate them, there can be no dispute about which items are being requested – records in the CIA’s possession that mention Nelson Mandela or his three listed aliases,” Cooper wrote.
Previously, the CIA had refused to comply because of the “overly burdensome” nature of the request.
It said it would take too many CIA resources to determine if a record was responsive.
But in May 2014, selected documents, most of them dating from the 1980s and 1990s, were released to Shapiro.
Al Jazeera broadcast them to the public days later and said at the time: “A partially classified July 1984 ‘teletype’ noted that supporters of a Freedom for Nelson and Winnie Mandela House resolution sponsored by African-American congressman George Crockett had ties to communist groups.
“The FBI also saw activities by the Communist Party USA, which circulated a petition demanding that President Ronald Reagan condemn Mandela’s incarceration as subversive, according to a January 1985 FBI document previously classified as secret.”
Shapiro said at the time: “Ultimately, what the documents reveal is the FBI’s unflagging conflation of social justice efforts with security threats, and the FBI’s cartoonish obsession with Communist Party subversion in the US, even as the Cold War itself crumbled into obsolescence.”
The US Attorneys’ office refused to comment on the proceedings because the case was ongoing.
By: Garreth Van Niekerk