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How the CIA contributed to the capture of Mandela and his subsequent imprisonment

Posted on January 15th, 2014 in Politics by Robert Miller


A Younger Nelson Mandela

A Younger Nelson Mandela

Democracy Now has a story on how the CIA helped capture Nelson Mandela in the 1960s, turning over information of his whereabouts to the apartheid government of South Africa. The CIA agent is said to have remarked “We have turned Mandela over to the South African security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be. They have picked him up. It is one of our greatest coups.” This is an old story, but it seems to have fresh legs, stirred by Mandela’s death.

While the African National Congress (ANC) is South Africa’s ruling party today, it only gained that stature when Nelson Mandela was released from prison and became President of South Africa. Before then, beginning in the Cold War era, the ANC was considered to be a leftist organization and our government listed it as a terrorist organization. During that era we sided with the apartheid government of South Africa.

It must have been a little uncomfortable for Barack Obama when he gave his eulogy for Nelson Mandela during his memorial service, because if anyone was prepared to ask Obama about the American government’s role in promoting apartheid in South Africa, he would have to stand straight and center and say something like “yes our record isn’t too good there,”  But no one asked and probably no one would ask under the circumstances.  The activist group RootsAction has launched a campaign to urge the CIA to open its files on Mandela and South Africa, and the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has questioned why corporate media outlets have largely ignored the story. Reporter Andrew Cockburn first reported the story in the NYT in 1986.


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