11 January 2014, 07:26

CIA may be 'enormously embarrassed' over Mandela's arrest - expert

CIA may be 'enormously embarrassed' over Mandela's arrest - expert

The US Central Intelligence Agency is facing a lawsuit over Nelson Mandela’s 1962 arrest. The legal action filed by American Freedom of Information Act researcher Ryan Shapiro comes about a month after the CIA failed to release all records referring to the South African former President. The lawsuit was reportedly lodged in US District Court for the District of Columbia. Stephen Ellis, a historian at the African Studies Centre in the Netherlands, commetns.

Nelson Mandela, former South African President, was detained in 1962 and convicted of treason. He was a political prisoner for 27 years. There have always been many rumors regarding Mandela’s arrest. Soon after his death in an attempt to solve at least one mystery Ryan Shapiro filed a request for all CIA documents mentioning Nelson Mandela. The researcher is interested in whether the intelligence agency was complicit in the former Mandela’s imprisonment. With no response yet, Shapiro is now getting ahead with a legal action.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student is seeking details on why the secretive agency saw Mandela as a threat to the US national security.

Questioned about the lawsuit a CIA representative stressed the agency was not ready to comment on any court cases involving its activities.

Apart from the CIA Ryan Shapiro filed a Freedom of Information Act requests to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency.

Ryan Shapiro is a historian studying conflicts over national security. During his research he has been submitting so many requests for information disclosure that the US FBI filed a lawsuit seeking to cut his activities short. According to the FBI Shapiro’s requests could undermine national security.

Stephen Ellis, a historian at the African Studies Centre in the Netherlands, commetns:

Do you think that the allegations about the CIA’s role in Nelson Mandela’s arrest have any ground at all?

I am confident they have grounding and I would say I am as sure as I can be that this is correct without ever having seen a document from the CIA or from the South African police confirming it. But I am completely sure.

What are the consequences for the CIA if the court admits the rumors are actually true?

If this were to happen, then the CIA will potentially be enormously embarrassed. But I don’t know exactly how these things work in the US but I don’t think that the CIA can easily be made to give up documents that it doesn’t want to give up.

Is it the first time the CIA is accused of its involvement in Nelson Mandela’s arrest? Is Ryan Shapiro the only one who has ever submitted similar requests to the agency?

No, not at all. I mean there had been rumors around for many years and from time to time one or other US newspaper including some very respectable newspapers have carried a story. The one that springs to mind is that there was quite an important article in the Atlantic constitution which is an important newspaper, it was in those days, shortly after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 and I think it considerably embarrassed the US authorities. But there are a few people on the South African side, former police and intelligence officials who have said as much in the memoirs including in published memoirs who said that they received the information necessary to arrest Nelson Mandela from the CIA.

Tell us how did you get it that the CIA might be complicit in Mandela’s arrest? Is there any substantial evidence?

I heard this rumor, when I started checking on sources, it was stated by some quite serious people. I myself have interviewed at least one former US diplomat, somebody who was at the US embassy in South Africa at the time of Mandela’s arrest. Of course this person was not himself a CIA employee, he was a diplomat. But nevertheless, being at the US embassy he would have had some knowledge of what was going on. And he said that he thought and heard of various stories about how the CIA was involved. And I have spoken to people who were in the South African intelligence services at that time in 1962, and they said the same, and in particular the South African man called Gerard Ludi who was actually an agent for the South African police at that time who infiltrated the South African communist party as an agent, later went into business with the man who was the CIA chief of station in South Africa at the time of Mandela’s arrest. So, there is a great deal of testimonies and the thing that we are really missing is documentary evidence and that is exactly what this person in the US Ryan Shapiro is seeking to get.

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