David Ryan – Mining Nicaragua’s Harbours and Undermining CIA Recovery

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Event Date: 29 April – 1 May 2011
East Midlands Conference Centre
University of Nottingham  
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RJ



Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA in History, Fiction and Memory

Dr David Ryan (University College, Cork) – Mining Nicaragua’s Harbours and Undermining CIA Recovery

In 1984 the CIA and their UCLAs or unilaterally controlled Latino assets mined the harbours of Nicaragua.  Within a short period of time the Sandinstas government took a case against the United States at the International Court of Justice, which in 1986 found against the United States on a number of counts.  This paper will examine the CIA and its Director, William Casey’s, commitment to the Reagan doctrine and the Nicaraguan operations within the broader policy.  In the wake of the Vietnam War, Robert Gates, in his nomination as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence considered covert action the only viable option open to the Reagan administration at a time when diplomacy was not enough (nor desirable) and overt military force could not be used in the face of public opposition and Pentagon reticence.  The mining of the harbours represented one of a number of covert operations against the Sandinista regime.  This paper will analyse the impact of the operations and their revelations.  It will study the role of the Intelligence Committees in Congress with a particular focus on Senator Barry Goldwater’s reaction especially at a time when the CIA was attempting to rebuild their reputation.  It will examine the US public reaction to an increasingly unpopular set of operations, the Sandinista response and those reactions of key US allies in Europe, especially France who supplied the Sandinistas with mine clearing equipment.  The paper will therefore address the conference theme in terms of investigating the operations and the public negotiation of the unfolding exposure.

David Ryan works in the School of History and is Associate Dean, The Gradate School, University College Cork, Ireland.  He is the author and editor of numerous books and articles including US-Sandinista Diplomatic Relations (1995), US Foreign Policy in World History (2000), The United States and Europe (2003), and Frustrated Empire (2007).  He is the co-editor of The United States and Decolonization (2000), Vietnam in Iraq (2007), and America and Iraq (2009).  He is currently completing a book on US Collective Memory and Intervention since 1969.

Contact information: School of History, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.

Email: david.ryan@ucc.ie

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