New Look at an Old Failure

An ex-CIA historian fights to air his version of the Bay of Pigs

As the nation picks through the wreckage of the Iran-contra affair for lessons, a dispute is brewing within the intelligence community that could throw new light on the granddaddy of all covert-action fiascos: the Bay of Pigs. The CIA's former chief historian, Jack Pfeiffer, is suing to force the release of his detailed and still classified studies on the invasion, which challenge the conventional historical wisdom about why it failed.

Previous historians have tended to place most of the blame on the CIA's deputy director for planning, Richard Bissell. His penchant for secrecy, they say, led him to keep the agency's...