POLITICAL SCIENCE

Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act

Penguin Pr. Jul. 2020. 464p. ISBN 9780735215757. $30. POL SCI
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Baker (Substitute) challenges what he views as government interference in his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that would have assisted his research on United States bacterial and chemical warfare during the Korean War. This gripping, but at times rambling, narrative describes U.S. Air Force experiments at Fort Detrick, MD during the Korean War, when untold numbers of animals, and perhaps some humans, were killed in efforts to find more efficient ways to destroy crops, including the deliberate spread of Lyme disease. Although Baker emphasizes Project Baseless, he discusses similar projects during World War II and the Vietnam War. The book, based on a decade of research, is presented in diary form from March-May 2019 that includes anecdotes of Baker’s life in Bangor, Maine with his wife and dogs, which provide a jarring contrast to stories of plagues and starvation. He holds the CIA and State Department accountable for ignoring or heavily redacting his requests, and calls for all government records more than 50 years old to be released unabridged.
VERDICT This flowing account reveals the dark side of wartime strategies clouded by denials of FOIA requests. It will fascinate Cold War-era historians and readers concerned about access to government information.

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