185. Editorial Note

The question of the role the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia in compiling and providing lists of Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) members to anti-Communists and Indonesian military authorities has been the subject of controversy. In 1990 a journalist interviewed Robert J. Martens, political officer in the Embassy, and then published an article, “U.S. Officials’ Lists Aided Indonesia Bloodbath in 60’s.” (The Washington Post, May 21, 1990) Martens sent a letter to the editor of The Washington Post on June 2, 1990, in which he stated: “It is true that I passed names of the PKI leaders and senior cadre system to non-Communist forces during the six months of chaos between the so-called coup and the ultimate downfall of Sukarno.” Martens continued, “the real point, however, is that the names I gave were based entirely—I repeat entirely—on the Indonesia Communist press and were available to everyone. This was a senior cadre system of the PKI—a few thousand at most out of the 3.5 million claimed party members.” Martens stressed that these lists of PKI members were “not party rank and file.” Martens also stated categorically in his letter that, “I and I alone decided to pass those ‘lists’ to the non-Communist forces. I neither sought nor was given permission to do so by Ambassador Marshall Green or any other embassy official.” Martens concluded with the statement that he did not turn over classified information nor was he the head of an Embassy group that spent 2 years compiling the lists as stated in the article in The Washington Post. He stated that there was no such group.

Between December 17, 1965, and August 10, 1966, the Embassy sent the Department three airgrams listing PKI members. On December 17, 1965, the U.S. Embassy in Djakarta transmitted to the Department airgram A–398 that contained as enclosures lists of the PKI leadership and a compilation on the fate of PKI leaders. The airgram was drafted by Martens who informed the Department that the Embassy had received a [Page 387] number of reports concerning the arrests of prominent PKI leaders, often based on suspect evidence. Martens also cautioned that there was widespread falsification of documents, such as “alleged confessions some of which can be easily detected and some not.” He then explained that enclosed in the airgram were two lists. The first was an unclassified list of the PKI leadership bodies (Politburo, Central Committee, Central Control Commission, Central Verification Commission, and Secretariat Central Committee-PKI) with the names of their members as they existed in May 1965. The second enclosure was a “fragmentary compilation on the present whereabouts of PKI leaders based on limited information available.” The May 1965 list contained 95 PKI positions (comprising only 67 individuals since PKI members often had multiple positions and one official was identified by two different names). The second list described the whereabouts of 18 PKI leaders of which all but 2 were either dead, arrested, or believed to be arrested. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 12 INDON)

On March 11, 1966, the Embassy sent the Department airgram A–564 which was drafted by Martens and signed by Edward Masters and contained as an enclosure an update on the fate of PKI leadership from the Central Committee, Central Control Commission, Central Verification Commission and Heads of Provincial PKI Organizations who were not members of the Central Committee. The airgram indicated that information on PKI officials “remains extremely fragmentary but sufficient additional information has been received to make a new compilation advisable.” The enclosure was a list of 80 PKI leaders and their status. (Ibid., RG 84, Djakarta Embassy Files: Lot 69 F 42, POL 12 PKI)

On August 10, 1966, Ambassador Green sent airgram A–74 to the Department, drafted by Marten and approved by Masters, which provided as an enclosure another update of the fate of PKI leaders. Airgram A–74 provided new information available since March 1966 on 15 senior PKI figures and listed 4 senior PKI officials reported dead and 20 reported imprisoned. This airgram, which was signed by Green, indicated that: “A sanitized [ie. Embassy attribution removed] version of the lists in A–398 has been made available to the Indonesian Government last December [1965] and is apparently being used by Indonesian security authorities who seem to lack even the simplest overt information on PKI leadership at the time (lists of other officials in the PKI affiliates, Partindo and Baperki were also provided to GOI officials at their request).” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 12 INDON) Partindo was a small left wing party that was closely allied with larger and more influential Baperki, an association of Indonesians of Chinese descent.