CIA Sued for Mandela Records

FOIA activist seeking CIA’s files on South African leader
The late South African President Nelson Mandela / AP

The late South African President Nelson Mandela / AP


A transparency advocate is suing the Central Intelligence Agency to obtain the agency’s files on Nelson Mandela, the late South African anti-Apartheid activist and Nobel Prize laureate.

Shortly after Mandela’s death in December, MIT graduate student Ryan Shapiro filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all CIA records regarding Mandela. The CIA failed to respond by the legal deadline and Shapiro filed suit Wednesday.

There have long been unconfirmed rumors that the CIA surveilled Mandela and tipped South African authorities to his location, leading to his arrest in 1962 and subsequent 27 years in prison.

Cox News Service reported in 1990 that a former U.S. official had anonymously admitted to the CIA’s role in Mandela’s arrest, but evidence has yet to confirm or contradict the rumor.

The court filing, first reported by the Huffington Post, says Shapiro, “anticipates that the records to which he seeks access will begin to answer the following questions: What was the extent and purpose of the U.S. intelligence community’s surveillance of Nelson Mandela prior to his arrest? What role did the U.S. intelligence community play in Mandela’s arrest and prosecution?”

Shapiro is also seeking records from several other national security agencies, according to the Huffington Post.

Shapiro is a prolific FOIA requestor. The FBI is asking a court to block the release of hundreds of thousands of pages he has requested.

CJ Ciaramella   Email CJ | Full Bio | RSS
CJ Ciaramella is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Beacon, he was a reporter for the Daily Caller. He was also a Collegiate Network year-long fellow at the San Diego Union-Tribune and has written articles for the Weekly Standard and Oregon Quarterly. Ciaramella attended the University of Oregon, where he edited the award-winning student magazine, the Oregon Commentator. He lives in Washington, D.C. His Twitter handle is @cjciaramella. His email address is

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