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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Was CIA Involved in Mandela’s Arrest?

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Central Intelligence Agency stonewalled a scholar who seeks information on decades-old news reports tying the CIA to the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, the MIT doctoral candidate claims in court.

Mandela spent more than 27 years in prison before becoming the nation's first black president, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. He was released from prison in 1990.

That year, an anonymous government official told Cox News Service that in "one of the most shameful, utterly horrid" episodes of the Cold War, the CIA tipped off the South African government about where to arrest Mandela.

In his federal FOIA complaint, Ryan Shapiro says he is investigating that allegation.

"Though the U.S. intelligence community is long believed to have been involved in Mandela's arrest, little specific public information exists regarding this involvement," the complaint states. "Similarly, though the U.S. intelligence community is long understood to have routinely provided information to the South African regime regarding the anti-apartheid movement, little specific public information exists about these activities either. Further, despite now being universally hailed as a hero and freedom fighter against gross injustice, Mandela was designated a terrorist by the United States government and remained on the U.S. terror watch list until 2008."

This is far from Shapiro's maiden voyage into the world of secret government documents.

The FBI views Shapiro as the agency's "most prolific" Freedom of Information Act requester, and petitioned District of Columbia Federal Court to prevent the release of 350,000 pages, according to a November 2013 report in Mother Jones magazine.

In his lawsuit, Shapiro says he sent his FOIA requests to the FBI, CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency through certified mail.

The only named defendant, however, is the CIA, which signed a receipt but never otherwise confirmed receipt of the request or assigned a tracking number, according to the lawsuit.

Shapiro wants to see documents. He is represented by Jeffrey Light.

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