Why The Key Able Archer 83 Report Should Be Released Under UK FOIA
A British report entitled “The Detection of Soviet Preparations for War Against NATO” was the first comprehensive report that warned that a November 1983 nuclear release exercise called Able Archer 83 could have spooked the Soviets into a preemptive nuclear attack against the West. Within weeks, a First Tier British tribunal on Information Rights will decide if this key 32-year-old report will be released to the public or will remain censored by the Cabinet Office for the foreseeable future.
As has been widely reported, the British FOIA law is under attack. MP Chris Grayling has alleged that journalists “misuse” the Freedom of Information Act to create stories. (Here are 103 stories that journalists utilized the British FOIA to write, presumably “correctly.”) More threateningly, a British government commission has been created “to consider new restrictions to the [Freedom of Information] Act.” According to The Guardian, the five-member commission is composed of “Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, who is already on the record calling for the act to be rewritten; Lord Carlile of Berriew, who accused the Guardian of ‘a criminal act’ when it published stories using National Security Agency material leaked by Edward Snowden; Lord Howard, whose gardening expenses were criticised after being exposed following FoI requests; and Dame Patricia Hodgson, the deputy chair of Ofcom, which has criticised the act for its ‘chilling effect’ on government.”
But even without the law’s pending wing-clipping, the British Cabinet Office (the office responsible for supporting the Prime Minister) is arguing that a 32-year-old report of an historic event of immense public interest should be withheld –without even being reviewed– forever.