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The Special Newsweek Edition “DECLASSIFIED” –Even Further Declassified.

December 28, 2015

Order your copy of Newsweek’s Special Edition: DECLASSIFIED here.

It was my great pleasure to work on a special edition of Newsweek featuring documents declassified in 2015.  The whole team was fantastic to work with and has done a great job producing a high quality edition that document hounds and novices alike will speedily turn the pages of. As the introduction to the edition states:

Americans  take justifiable pride in having a government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people.’  But officials and bureaucrats sometimes carry out illegal or immoral acts, then hide the evidence in plain sight, burying it under a mound of public records.  Fortunately, a group of dedicated patriots doggedly utilize one of the most powerful tools at their disposal –the Freedom of Information Act– to bring these misdeeds to light.  Over the past 25 years, more than 10 million pages of previously classified documents from more than 200 agencies have been made public thanks to the efforts of a handful of individuals, who tirelessly comb through reams of documents and analyze the information they contain.  Sometimes shocking, sometimes scandalous and occasionally strange, these are the secrets your government kept from you –out in the open for anyone curious to learn.  

But beyond this excellent print edition, I wanted to publish my rough draft  of the copy I provided for Newsweek to readers of Unredacted.  First, because space constraints required much of the background to these fascinating declassified stories had to be cut; and second, so that our document hound readers can now click the links and read the entire featured documents themselves and see how they were presented by the “dedicated patriots” who actually filed the FOIAs and brought these government secrets into the public domain.  

Again, the below is a rough draft  so please treat it as such. 


Spying on Black Lives Matter

The Funk Parade has made DHS's radar.

The Funk Parade has made DHS’s radar.

The Department of Homeland Security has been routinely surveying the Black Lives Matter movement, according to documents released by the DHS in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.  The redacted documents show that the DHS has been watching and providing minute-by-minute reports on protests by the movement, which began after retired Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot teenager Michael Brown.  The documents show that the DHS, ostensibly created to protect the United States against terrorist attacks, is now monitoring First Amendment protected assemblies.  Its Watch Desk regularly tracks Black Lives Matter social media hashtags on twitter, facebook, and vine, and has circulated near-real-time Google Maps updates of protesters’ movements.   The documents show that DHS has also surveilled peaceful events in Washington D.C. such as a funk parade and the Avon Walk to End Breast Cancer.


Document mentioning Funk Parade and Breast Cancer Walk:

Credit: George Joseph, The Intercept

Petraeus and Broadwell Revealed

A US District Court Plea Agreement signed by the former Director of the CIA and Commander of CENTCOM, David Petraeus, confirms that he lied to FBI investigators about providing access to his classified “black books” to his biographer and mistress Paula Broadwell.  Petraeus gave the “black books” – five by eight inch–notebooks filled with classified notes about “identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions,” and notes from National Security Council meetings and discussions with the President of the United States.  Petraeus’s illegal disclosure of classified information was revealed after Broadwell became jealous of Petraeus’s relationship with Tampa socialite Jill Kelley and derided Kelly in anonymous emails to military officials.  These emails sparked an FBI investigation that eventually led to Petraeus’s forced retirement and guilty plea for mishandling classified materials.

Best document:

Best quotes on Page 9; Good quotes on pages 11 and 13; his “guilty signature” on page 15.

"Say Peyton do you think we'll ever make it into a special DECLASSIFIED edition of Newsweek?" "I don't know Tom, but I sure do hope so someday."

“Say Peyton do you think we’ll ever make it into a special DECLASSIFIED edition of Newsweek?” “I don’t know Tom, but I sure do hope so someday.”

Inside Tom Brady’s Inbox

As part of the National Football League Players Association’s lawsuit that overturned Tom Brady’s 2015 suspension for allegedly deflating balls, Brady submitted over 1,000 pages of his personal emails (selected after a search for terms that could plausibly relate to deflating balls).  No deflating ball turned up, but we learned that he wasn’t happy about having to pay $8,540 for a new pool cover (“why can’t we use the same cover we have on now?”).  He also predicted he’d long outlast his rival Peyton Manning: “I’ve got another 7 or 8 years. He has 2. That’s the final chapter.”  Once the email was made public, Brady texted an apology to Manning.  Said Manning, “Everybody has been speculating on that for a long time, so I guess he’s joining the list.”

Documents: On pool cover: pg 106/107

On Manning:  page 126

Credit: Boston Globe

The Shell Game.

The “Shell Game.”

The FBI’s Aerial Surveillance Program Uncovered

The FBI has a fleet of over 50 low-flying aircraft, registered to at least 13 fake companies which are used for “ongoing investigations,” usually without a judge’s approval.  An Associated Press investigation uncovered the program, with planes registered to fake companies called “FVX Research, KQM Aviation, NBR Aviation, and PXW Services” and registered to PO Boxes in Bristow, Virginia – one of which is also a DOJ PO box.  A Detroit News investigation followed one secret FBI Cessna as it repeatedly made nineteen identical slow, counterclockwise loops over Dearborn, Michigan.  The planes contain high-tech cameras, and possibly “Sting Ray” cell phone tracking equipment.

Documents: (Control F for “Bristow VA” for the lists of fake companies) (Registration documents with fake company.)

Video of Dearborn loop:

More background:

Credit: Jack Gillum, Eileen Sullivan and Eric Tucker, Associated Press; Robert Snell, The Detroit News



FOIAed Dox Show Climate Change Denying Scientist Secretly Got $1.2 Million from Fossil Fuel Industry; Promised them “Deliverables”

For years, Wei-Hock Soon, a Scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has been an oft-cited scientist who denies that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming, instead claiming that variations in the sun’s energy explain most global warming.  But a recent FOIA release by the Smithsonian (a federal government institution covered by the Freedom of Information Act) shows that Soon received $1.2 million in funding from the fossil fuel industry over the past decade.  Soon failed to cite this potential conflict of interest in his papers, appearing to violate the ethical guidelines of the journals which published his work in at least eight cases; he also described many of his papers, as well as his Congressional testimony, as “deliverables” to his funders.

Document: “deliverables” on page 11.

Credit for the FOIA: Greenpeace

Over 50 more pages of incidents like these at the DEA published at the link.

Over 50 more pages of incidents like these at the DEA published at the link.

DEA Agents Not Fired for Selling Drugs

Drug Enforcement Administration agents who sold drugs, attended “sex parties,” and committed other serious misdeeds were not fired, according to an internal affairs log released in response to a FOIA request.  Since 2010, the DEA’s Board of Professional Conduct recommended that a DEA employee be fired in 50 instances.  In only thirteen instances were the employees actually terminated –and even some of those were reinstated!  The DEA did not fire agents who attended cartel-funded “sex parties” in Colombia.  Nor were agents who lost firearms, committed fraud, drove while intoxicated,  used drugs, or sold drugs.


Credit: Brad Heath and Meghan Hoyer, USA Today.

Declassified: US Air Force Accidentally Hit Mexico with a Radioactive Rocket.

A recently declassified memorandum shows that in July of 1970, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had the unenviable task of informing President Nixon that an Athena V rocket, launched from the Green River Launch Complex in Utah experienced “abnormal reentry into the atmosphere,” went dangerously off course, and impacted “180-200 miles south of the Mexican border,” in the Mapimi desert, in the Mexican state of Durango. Worse, the rocket was carrying two vials of Cobalt 57, an isotope used to enhance radioactive fallout over large areas of land (sometimes called a “salted bomb”).  Because of this radioactive risk, cleanup effort was protracted and included the construction of a road through the desert and the evacuation of tons of soils from the impact site.  Today the area is called the “Mapimi Silent Zone,” and locals tell of legends of unconfirmed extraterrestrial sightings.  One Mapimi space story that we now know is true: It was hit by an actual rocket.  One launched accidentally by the United States.

Crash site.

Crash site.

Document: including impact spot on map

Credit: National Security Archive Michael Barclay

Soviet writer and poet Boris Pasternak near his home in the countryside outside Moscow on Oct. 23, 1958. (HAROLD K. MILKS/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Soviet writer and poet Boris Pasternak near his home in the countryside outside Moscow on Oct. 23, 1958. (HAROLD K. MILKS/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Declassified: The CIA’s Role Publishing Doctor Zhivago

In January 1958 a secret package containing two rolls of film arrived at the CIA headquarters from British Intelligence.  The film contained pictures of the Russian-language novel by Boris Pasternak entitled Doctor Zhivago, which was banned from publication in the Soviet Union.  The CIA has declassified 229 documents about how it got the masterpiece behind the Iron Curtain.  By September 1958, the Agency had worked with its allies in the Dutch Intelligence to publish about 1,000 copies, bound in blue linen and wrapped in brown paper.  They were distributed, with help from the Vatican, to visiting Soviets at the World’s Fair in Brussels.  The plan worked; copies reached the Soviet Union and Pasternak won a Nobel Prize for his masterpiece.  “This phase can be considered completed successfully,” reported one CIA memo.  Another memo to all branch chiefs from the Agency’s Soviet Russia Division announced: “[t]his book has great propaganda value, not only for its intrinsic message and thought-provoking nature, but also for the circumstances of its publication: we have the opportunity to make Soviet citizens wonder what is wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country in his own language for his own people to read.”


Stealing the Soviet’s Lunik Satellite

A declassified document now shows that a little bit of “cheating” occurred during the US-Soviet Space race. In the early sixties (the exact date is still undisclosed) the Soviets launched a tour of several (still undisclosed) countries to tout their industrial and economic accomplishments. One of these exhibits was a Lunik Satellite, which successfully orbited or landed on the moon fifteen times between 1959 and 1976. At this point the US was behind the Soviets in the Space race, and the CIA hatched a plot to steal (the document uses the word “borrow”) the Lunik, look under its hood, and return it. Because Soviet guards watched the Lunik 24 hours a day while it was being exhibited, CIA covert operators decided to snatch the craft as it was being transferred city to city via truck and train. The CIA operators somehow got the driver of truck carrying the Lunik to give his truck to CIA intelligence collectors and spend the night (under surveillance) at a hotel. The CIA took the Lunik to a salvage yard, dissembled it, took copious photographs, reassembled it, and returned it to the truck driver, who dropped it off at the train. The CIA collected important information about how the Lunik worked, and, until the heist’s declassification, “there has been no indication the Soviets ever discovered that the Lunik was borrowed for a night.”


Credit: Jeff Richelson National Security Archive; Kurt Eichenwald, Newsweek. (

Whitey Bulger

The Department of Justice described Whitey Bulger as a special type of criminal. “[H]e was no ordinary leader. He did the dirty work himself, because he was a hands-on killer.” Eventually he was convicted of being involved in eleven murders along with other charges, including racketeering. Declassified documents describe Bulger’s Winter Hill gang as “a group of criminals involved in a wide variety of crimes – “narcotics, gambling, loansharking, murder, etc.”

One informant, Timothy A. Connolly III, who betrayed Bulger (himself an FBI informant) was given the pseudonym CLEANSHAVE, a reference of what Bulger would do to him if he discovered his betrayal.

Documents: (screenshots) and (originals) (page 3 for hands-on killer quote)

All of these photos are property of the DOJ and can be used fair use:

Credit: MuckRock, Gabi Gage

Ferguson Airspace Closed to Media

The Federal Aviation Administration agreed to a St. Louis County Police department request to restrict more than a 3.4 mile radius of airspace around Ferguson, Missouri for twelve days so that media news helicopters could not view and broadcast protests over the killing of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. Police officers claimed at the time that they requested the restrictions in response to shots fired at a police helicopter. But they could provide no incident report of the alleged shooting, there was no damage to the helicopter and one recording released under FOIA describes it as unconfirmed “rumors.” One FAA official at the agency’s command center asked the FAA manager in Kansas City if the restrictions were really about safety: “So are (the police) protecting aircraft from small-arms fire or something?” he asked. “Or do they think they’re just going to keep the press out of there, which they can’t do.”

Transcripts of the audio:

Audio files:

Credit: Associated Press Jack Gillum and Joan Lowy

Police Militarization

After citizens began protesting the death of teenager Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, the Ferguson Police Department, backed up by the St. Louis County Police Department, responded with a militarized show of force, including mine-resistant Humvees, combat-style assault rifles, and gas masks. This display of weaponry once used in Iraq and Afghanistan led many to question how it got there. Part of the answer is a Department of Homeland Security grant program which provides roughly $1.6 billion annually to state and local police which often use it to purchase advanced “tactical” gear like that seen on the streets of Ferguson. Another program is the Defense Logistics Agency’s “1033 Program” which is authorized to “transfer of excess DOD personal property to federal and state agencies.” Since 1990, the program has disbursed $5.6 billion worth of military gear to police departments. After the images of military equipment roaming the streets of Ferguson, President Obama ordered a review of the 1033 Program. In June of 2015, Pentagon officials ordered the city of Ferguson to return two of the Humvees which the city had procured “without following the proper transfer protocol.”

Documents: (St. L county helicopters)

Signed MOU:

Inventory list:

Note: Most of Ferguson/ St. L County weapons appeal to come from DHS grant program; but not enough documentation has been released.

Sources: Jason Leopold, Vice; Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian.

...Wonder if his employees followed this one better than his memo on FOIA.

…Wonder if his employees followed this one better than his memo on FOIA.

DEA not TnA

While the DEA did not fire any of its employees that attended cartel financed “sex parties” with prostitutes in Colombia, one of the last ever actions by the US Attorney General Eric Holder was to send a memorandum to all personnel under him (including the DEA) stating, “I want to reiterate to all Department personnel, including attorneys and law enforcement officers, that they are prohibited from soliciting, procuring, or accepting commercial sex.” In addition to undermining “efforts to eradicate the scourge of human trafficking,” hiring prostitutes also “invites extortion, blackmail, and leaks of sensitive or classified information,” warned Holder.


DOJ IG report about misbehaving with prostitutes: Incidents start at page 11.

Released to the NS Archive via FOIA.

Released to the NS Archive via FOIA.

Cheney and 9/11

Fourteen years after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, a Freedom of Information Act request has forced the release of photographs taken by Vice President Cheney’s staff photographer. The raw photos capture the shock, anger, and sadness on the faces of Cheney, his wife Lynne, President Bush, the First Lady Laura, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenant, and others inside the inner circle. They also document the Cheney’s flight to the first of widely reported “undisclosed locations” –Camp David.


A “minute by minute doc of Cheney’s movements:

Credit: Colette Neirouz Hanna FRONTLINE/ Kirk Documentary Group

Osama bin Laden’s Man Cave

In May of 2015 the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released 103 documents and a list of over 200 publications found in Osama bin Laden’s Abottabad compound in Pakistan. These included an application to join Al Qaeda which asked “Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?” and, “Who should we contact in case you become a martyr?” Bin Laden also appeared to share some reading interests with his enemies in the West.   His bookshelf included The 9/11 Commission Report and books written by DC insider Bob Woodward. Most of the documents appear to be correspondences between bin Laden and his deputies, as well as much about day-to-day operations and finances. A spreadsheet listing Al Qaeda’s expenses from April to December 2009 was found, as was a letter from bin Laden nixing the idea of giving his employees advances on their salary: “They could spend the money and then come back and ask for a loan.” The raiders also found several video game guides, including one –a bit ironically– for “Delta Force Xtreme 2,” though the ODNI determined these “were probably used by other compound residents.”

The ODNI also confirmed that “some pornographic material” was contained in Bin Laden’s recovered papers and personal effects. However, details of the pornography will be kept secret. “We are not going to release these materials due to the nature of their contents,” an ODNI spokesman told The Guardian.




al Alwaki’s mugshot after his arrest for soliciting prostitutes in San Diego.

Private Life of a Jihadist

Declassified documents show that Anwar al Alwaki, the most influential English-language recruiter for the cause of violent jihad, may have initially fled the US to Yemen due to a fear of having his proclivity for frequenting prostitutes revealed and losing his job as imam of a prestigious mosque, not the cause of Jihad. The documents show that Alwaki was twice arrested for soliciting prostitutes in San Diego, and a declassified FBI memorandum reveals that between September 2001 and February 2002 al Alwaki visited at least seven high-priced (as much as $400) prostitutes in the DC area. An interview with the 9/11 Commission revealed that just before he fled the US, the manager of an escort service used by Awlaki had tipped the cleric off to the FBI’s inquiries about his visits to prostitutes.

A man of expensive tastes.

A man of expensive tastes.

From Yemen, he influenced would-be jihadists, including the Underwear Bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and the Boston Marathon Bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Two 2010 Department of Justice memorandums stating that extra judicially killing al Awlaki (an American citizen) aboard would be legal have now also been declassified. He was killed by a US drone strike in Yemen on September 30, 2011.

Documents: Prostitution Mugshot:’s%20San%20Diego%20arrest%201997.pdf

List of Prostitutes on pg 18:

First memo stating Awlaki assassination legal:

Credit: National Security Archive and Scott Shane


Evaluation Report.

American Sniper Report Card

Declassified Navy Evaluation Reports show that Chris Kyle, the soldier portrayed in the film American Sniper, was extremely well-respected by his superiors as a SEAL, sniper, leader, and mentor during each of his four tours in Iraq. One evaluation reported on his role during the siege of Fallujah: “His contributions to success over the insurgency in Iraq cannot be overstated!” A subsequent evaluation stated “***ONE OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE COMBAT SNIPERS IN U.S. MILITARY HISTORY*** UNMATCHED COMBAT LEADERSHIP AND OPERATIONAL KILL.” In 2013, Kyle was killed by a former marine at a shooting range in Chalk Mountain, Texas. While his evaluations redact the exact number of confirmed kills, he has claimed to have over 160, making him the most lethal in US military history.

Documents: documents quoted are page 5 and 8)

Credit: JPat Brown, Muckrock

American Torture Declassified

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the executive summary of its long-awaited “Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program,” describing in more than 500 pages and 2,725 footnotes how the CIA was so dysfunctional after 9/11 that it solicited private contractors’ proposals for torture, and then lied to Congress, President Bush, the Justice Department, the public, and to itself about the purported effectiveness of the program. One interrogator called the program a “train wreak” [sic] and wrote “I intend to get the hell off the train before it happens.” Among the newly revealed gruesome details of the report is the fact that the CIA used a method called “rectal rehydration” where one detainee’s “’lunch tray’ of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused.” Among the Report’s finding were that the CIA’s use of torture was not an effective means of acquiring intelligence from detainees, that the techniques used by the CIA were far more brutal than what it reported to the Department of Justice and others, and that the CIA justified these tactics with untrue claims of their effectiveness.

Document: (lunch tray quote is on pg 141)

Tactical nukes. The most dangerous nukes on the island?

Tactical nukes. The most dangerous nukes on the island?

Cuban Missile Crisis Declassified

Declassified documents show that the Cuban Missile Crisis was even more dangerous than we knew. After what most view as the last day of the Crisis, October 28, 1962, nuclear warheads remained on Cuba. These included 80 nuclear armed front cruise missiles (FKRs) and 12 nuclear warheads for dual-use Luna launchers – this large quantity of tactical nukes was unknown to the Americans during the crisis. Both the FKRs and the Lunas had the capability to be launched without explicit orders from Moscow. And they likely would have been, had the US invaded the island, an option considered by Kennedy and the EXCOM. The final nukes were only withdrawn from Cuba in December 1, 1962, and then only because Castro’s pleas to the Soviets to leave the tactical weapons in Cuba were so inflamed that the Soviet envoy to Cuba, Anastas Mikoyan, became convinced that leaving any nuclear weapons on Cuban territory would have been reckless and dangerous.

Documents: Caption: November 9, 1962: Low-level photograph of 6 Frog (Luna) missile transporters under a tree at a military camp near Remedios. U.S. photo analysts first spotted these tactical nuclear-capable missiles on October 25, but only in 1992 did U.S. policymakers learn that nuclear warheads for the Lunas were already in Cuba in October 1962.

Source: Dino A. Brugioni collection, The National Security Archive.

The USS Pueblo docked in Pyongyang in 2010. For good measure, here is the official North Korean news agency report on the status of the spy ship:

The USS Pueblo docked in Pyongyang in 2010. For good measure, here is the official North Korean news agency report on the status of the spy ship:

The Pueblo and North Korea

The illegal 1968 capture of the USS Pueblo by North Korea commandos in international waters may still be the worst ever compromise of the National Security Agency’s code secrets, “everyone’s worst nightmare,” according to one National Security Agency historian. Declassified documents now show that the incident resulted in the capture of a dozen top secret encryption devices, maintenance manuals, and other code materials –which the North Koreans all-but-certainly shared with their Soviet allies. In response to the capture of the ship and crew, President Johnson considered nuclear weapons, a naval blockade, or ground attacks in retaliation. Eventually, a series of secret negotiations led by U.S. admiral, John Victor Smith led to the crew’s release. The USS Pueblo remains on display in Pyongyang North Korea.


North Korean Picture of Kim Jon Un visiting the Pueblo here:

Credit: National Security Archive John Prados and Jack Cheevers

Kennedy’s Final Brief

This year, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and the Central Intelligence Agency released 2,500 President’s Daily Briefs (earlier called President’s Daily Checklists) from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. The PDB is a Top Secret document that summarizes the most current intelligence that the CIA believes the president needs to know. Former CIA director George Tenant once claimed that no PDB could ever be released to the public, “no matter how old or historically significant it may be,” so this declassification is extremely significant.

Perhaps the most poignant of the released documents is the one dated November 22, 1963, the day President Kennedy was assassinated.   The authors dedicated the Checklist to Kennedy, included no intelligence reports, and could “find no words more fitting” than a Domingo Ortega poem quoted by the President the day he learned of Soviet missiles in Cuba.


NSA Targets under the MINARET program.

NSA Targets under the MINARET program.

Declassified NSA: We Spied in MLK and Mohamed Ali too!

The NSA has spied on Americans long before Edward Snowden revealed the details of the current programs. The NSA’s own declassified history reveals that in the late 1960s the NSA began expanding its surveillance of those that it and the FBI deemed “domestic terrorist and foreign radical suspects.” These “terrorists” and “radicals” included civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., boxer Muhammed Ali, newspaper columnists, and even Senators, including Howard Baker and Frank Church. The history describes these actions as “disreputable if not outright illegal.” One wonders what a future internal history will say about the NSA’s actions today.

Document: (page 85)

Here’s an earlier release that censored the names:

Source: National Security Archive; Bill Burr and Matthew Aid

Police photos of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (Source: Exhibits from the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Case File, 03/13/1951 - 03/27/1951)

Police photos of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (Source: Exhibits from the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Case File, 03/13/1951 – 03/27/1951)

Rosenberg Secrets

The last key grand jury record from the “trial of the century” of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg has finally been released. It shows that Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, lied about his sister’s involvement to conceal the minor role played by his wife, Ruth Greenglass. In August of 1950, Greenglass resisted prosecutor’s questions implicating his sister: “My sister has never spoken to me about this subject.” But at trial in March 1951, Greenglass and his wife Ruth put Ethel at the center of the conspiracy, typing up handwritten notes for delivery to the Soviets and operating a microfilm camera hidden in a console table – neither of which is mentioned in the earlier grand jury statements.



The NSA declassified 52,000 pages of documents about cryptographer William Friedman, arguably the founding father of the intelligence agency and the US’ scientific approach to code-breaking. By piecing together two version of the same memo –with different redactions in each version– found within these documents, researcher were able to discover revelations about the American and British intelligence’s secret relationship with the leading Cold War commercial encryption company, Crypto AG. Specifically, the documents reveal a secret relationship between Friedman and the founder of Crypto AG, Boris Hagelin – a relationship known as the “Boris Project.” The documents show “the NSA and GCHQ informed about the technical specifications of different machines and which countries were buying which ones,” which allowed descriptors to minimize the time needed to decrypt messages to a manageable duration.

Document: Same document, different redactions 1. and 2.

Source: BBC, Gordon Corera

Espionage Fallout

The declassified damage assessment of Jonathan Pollard provides new details on what the Israelis asked the Naval Intelligence analyst turned spy to steal. This list largely consisted of secret US documents on Israel’s rivals, including Syrian communications, the Egyptian missile program, and Soviet air defenses. At one point, Pollard’s handler, Joseph Yagur, told him not to provide “dirt” on senior Israeli officials as these revelations could lead to the operation’s end. Pollard was granted parole and released in November 2015.

Jonathan Pollard: On the left is Pollards U.S. Naval intelligence I.D. photo, and on the right a 2012 photo of Pollard in prison.

Jonathan Pollard: On the left is Pollards U.S. Naval intelligence I.D. photo, and on the right a 2012 photo of Pollard in prison.


Birth of a President

Here is a copy of President Barack Obama’s original long-form birth certificate, posted on the White House’s website in an attempt to end persistent rumors that the Obama was not born in the United States and therefore was not constitutionally eligible to be president. The long-form certificate states that Obama was born at Honolulu’s Kapiolani Hospital on August 4, 1961. When he released his birth certificate, Obama told reporters “We do not have time for this kind of silliness” and that he was “puzzled at the degree to which this just kept on going.” The administration had to make a special request to the state of Hawaii to get the long-form certificate released, as the state typically only releases shorter, computer-generated certificates.


Silk Road Revealed

This year Ross Ulbrict, who went by the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts, was sentenced to life in prison for creating and running the Silk Road, the first darknet market, largely used for anonymously selling drugs using bitcoin and the mail. According to the Grand Jury charges, the “Silk Road emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet. The website was used by several thousand drug dealers… to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs… to well over a hundred thousand buyers worldwide and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from these unlawful transactions.”


Ollie North's Notebooks --released to the NS Archive under FOIA-- further reveal the CIA's connection to drug runners.

Ollie North’s Notebooks –released to the NS Archive under FOIA– further reveal the CIA’s connection to drug runners.

CIA – America’s Drug Runners

A declassified CIA document entitled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story” reveals the agency’s willingness to capitalize on media rivalries to help bury the larger truth about the agency’s documented relationship with South American drug traffickers in 1996, recently highlighted the Hollywood thriller Kill the Messenger. The CIA was able to largely bury the story –and kill the career of Gary Webb who researched and published it. But subsequent investigations found that there was official US knowledge of –and collusion with– known drug traffickers connected to the Nicaraguan Contras. As early as 1989, a congressional report, authored by John Kerry, exposed that “the Contra drug links included…payments to drug traffickers by the U.S. State Department of funds authorized by the Congress for humanitarian assistance to the Contras, in some cases after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges, in others while traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies.”

Documents: Oliver North Notebook 1:

Oliver North notebook 2:

Kerry Report:

More background:

Credit:National Security Archive; Lauren Harper, Peter Kornbluh

Mystery of Missing Malaysian Flight 370

A Confidential report by the Malaysian Chief Inspector of Air Accidents shows that the last contact anyone had with the flight was at 1:19 Malaysian time when someone on the aircraft contacted Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic control MH 370 and stated “good night Malaysian Three Seven Zero.”   At 01:21 the radar label for MH 370 disappeared from the radar screen. Wreckage from the flight reappeared on July 29, 2015, on Réunion, an island in the western Indian Ocean. The object had a stenciled internal marking “657 BB,” which could have been printed onto a Boeing 777. The next day, a damaged suitcase was found on the same island.


Trigger Happy Russians

A Dutch inquiry into what caused the disintegration of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine found that the plane “crashed as a result of the detonation of a warhead outside the airplane above the left-hand side of the cockpit.” The inquiry determined that the warhead was a Russian made missile.

This is not the first time Russian weapons have shot down a civilian airliner. On September 1983, a Soviet a Sukhoi Su-15 fighter jet shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 over the Sea of Japan. Declassified documents now show that the flight had veered into Soviet territory, and the Soviets had mistaken it for a US EC-135 Cobra Ball airline which had earlier been in the same vicinity, spying on Soviet communications. US signals intelligence intercepted the communications of the Soviet pilot who shot down KAL 007 “the target is destroyed.”


Credit: National Security Archive

US Shoots Down Iran Air Flight 655

In July 1988, the civilian Iran Air Flight 665 was shot down by a US surface to air missile fired from the USS Vincennes, killing all 290 onboard. The incident took place in Iranian airspace, after the crew incorrectly identified the Iranian Airbus A300 as an attacking F-14A Tomcat fighter as it was pursuing Iranian gunboats. In 1996, the United States and Iran reached a settlement which included the statement that “the United States recognized the aerial incident of 3 July 1988 as a terrible human tragedy and expressed deep regret over the loss of lives caused by the incident” and agreed to pay Iran $61.8 million in compensation to the families of the Iranian victims. A declassified CIA terrorism review written in the aftermath of the US attack asked, “Shootdown of Iran Air 655: Will Iran Retaliate?”


Credit: National Security Archive, Malcolm Byrne

Israeli Nukes

Declassified documents now confirm the existence of the Israeli nuclear program and show that the US government first learned of the secret program in the summer of 1960. A declassified August 2, 1960, State Department cable from the US embassy in Tel Aviv to Washington reveals that the French were helping the Israelis to build “a 60 megawatt atomic power reactor” at the Dimona site where Israeli nuclear weapons would eventually be reduced. Another, recently released retrospective document describes the Dimona site as “the equivalent to our Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.” It is “the technology base required for nuclear weapons design and fabrication.”


And (quote on page III-4)

Credit: National Security Archive, Nuclear Proliferation International History Project

Iranian Nukes

Declassified documents show that that four decades ago the Shah of Iran made arguments about Iran’s right to develop a peaceful nuclear program that closely mirror the arguments made by the current Iranian regime during the P5+1 nuclear agreement. The documents show that the Shaw previously claimed that Iran was only interested in peaceful nuclear activities, including the need to compensate for the eventual decline of Iran’s oil reserves. The current Iranian regime, whose predecessors overthrew the Shaw, have made the same arguments. In one declassified document from 1977, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger asserted, “we should move heaven and earth to curb proliferation” and that “Even if we can buy only a decade [it is] worth it.”

Documents: (quote on page 6)–%20parametersforajointcomprehenisveplanofaction.pdf (unclassified State Department report, “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program,” April 2, 2015, Unclassified)

Credit: National Security Archive: Malcolm Byrne and Bill Burr

rightThumb_ablearcher(Almost) World War III

According to a declassified National Security Agency history, 1983 “marked the most dangerous Soviet-American confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis.” The difference was that this danger was kept secret for decades. The peak of this crisis was Able Archer 83, a November 1983 NATO exercise that utilized “new nuclear weapons release procedures” to simulate the transition from conventional to nuclear war with the Soviet Union.  Although US officials saw Able Archer 83 as a routine exercise, it resulted in an “unprecedented Soviet reaction” which US intelligence eventually inferred “was an expression of a genuine belief on the part of Soviet leaders that US was planning a nuclear first strike.” A chilling declassified report notes the US “may have inadvertently placed our relations with the Soviet Union on a hair trigger.”

The climax of Able Archer 83 was on November 9, 1983, when NATO war gamers simulated an “initial limited use of nuclear weapons,” and eventually practiced a worldwide nuclear war. At the same time, “The Soviets had concern that the West might decide to attack the USSR without warning during a time of vulnerability…thus compelling the Soviets to consider a preemptive strike at the first sign of US preparations for a nuclear strike.” Fortunately, the air force officer in charge of Able Archer, Lieutenant General Leonard Perroots “out of instinct, not informed guidance” and chose not to elevate the alert of Western forces in response to the Soviet Union’s nuclear preparations and the exercise ended without nuclear incident.


Cell Phone Trackers

A controversial new surveillance device called a StingRay can now track you by intercepting your phone’s signal –and all of the other cell phone signals in the StingRay’s range. Despite attempts by federal agencies and local police departments to keep information about StingRays and their use secret, the public is leaning about these invasive spying tools thanks to records released in response to FOIA requests. These records reveal the troubling practice of local police departments often signing non-disclosure agreements with the FBI in which they promise not to discuss any details about the devices. One police department signed a non-disclosure agreement promising to alert the FBI if any technical details about StingRay technology was at risk of being exposed during any trial,” and even agreed to “seek dismissal of the case” rather than reveal how they surveilled the alleged criminal.


Credit: Shawn Musgrave, Muckrock; Jason Leopold, Vice

Licensed to Spy

Federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as local law enforcement agencies, are using and building national license plate tracking systems. These systems use cameras, often mounted on police cars, to take photographs of license plates and enter them into a database which can accessed without a warrant. The largest commercial database has more than 2.5 billion records of license plates, growing by 2.7 million a day. These systems can allow tracking of a subject by an “alert list” which pings when an associated license is photographed, and can also be used to fill local coffers by tracking and penalizing subjects for unpaid fines, such as parking tickets.


Credit: MuckRock, Shawn Musgrave

"Prickly" Senator Leahy. Still FOIA's staunchest defender.

“Prickly” Senator Leahy (via a Pres Records Act/FOIA release). Still FOIA’s staunchest defender.

A FOIA Irony

A Freedom of Information Act request to the Clinton Presidential Library led to the release of a document dissing Senator Leahy, the Senate’s staunchest protector of FOIA. The memo, which discusses the possible nominations of Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, states the importance of gaining the support of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Leahy, now chair of the Committee, “can be prickly if ignored, and he has been ignored.” Fortunately being called “prickly” hasn’t stopped Senator Leahy from fighting for FOIA. In fact, he is leading the charge along with Senator Cornyn for more disclosures of “predecisional” information like this. According to the “prickly” Leahy: “The Freedom of Information Act is one of our nation’s most important laws, established to give Americans greater access to their government and to hold government accountable.”

Document: (quote on last page)

Secret Service Leaks

The Secret Service has recently been mired in allegations of sex parties, crashing while driving drunk near the White House, and sleeping on the job. Perhaps no congressman has scrutinized their misdeeds as closely as Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform. But the Secret Service did not like the attention and retaliated by leaking information about Chaffetz, including his unsuccessful attempt to join the organization. In one instance, Secret Service Assistant Director Edward Lowrey emailed employees, urging leaks about Chaffetz: “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair.”

Document quote on page 13

Army Beat Down

A leaked Army document reveals that two generals conspired to delay a response to a FOIA request by The New York Times about concussions at mandatory boxing classes at West Point. The FOIA request sought information on concussions during the boxing class, and Army surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, suggested that rather than promptly replying to the request, “trying to get The Wall Street Journal or USA Today to publish an article about a more favorable Army study on concussions.” After the leak, West Point quickly released concussion numbers. Sometimes leaks are more effective than the “proper channels.”

Document: (quote on page 2)

Credit: Dave Phillips, New York Times

Top Secret STD

The public is just now learning that between 1946 and 1948, US public health researchers infected 1,470 Guatemalan prisoners, soldiers, and mentally ill patients with syphilis and gonorrhea, without their knowledge or consent. The experiments were carried out in Guatemala under the cloak of confidentiality to test the effectiveness of penicillin, and the results were never published in the United States. It took more than 60 years for the Guatemalan syphilis experiments to become public, but now the files on these ethically repugnant experiments are open to researchers at the US National Archives. After these revelations, President Barak Obama called the Guatemalan president to apologize called for a review of protocols for human subjects’ protection.

Document: Index card of a subject

Final report:

Credit: National Security Archive, Kate Doyle

Return To Sender

A 38-page Department of Defense review confirms that the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah inadvertently shipped live samples of deadly bacteria, including anthrax, to at least 86 commercial and government laboratories in seven foreign countries, 20 US states, and the District of Columbia. The report found “systemic problems with irradiation and testing procedures” for an Army laboratory’s handling of anthrax. While the review determined serious problems with Dugway’s procedures, the root cause of the inadvertent distribution remains unknown. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work said that “We are shocked by these failures.”


Credit: Washington Post, Dan Lamothe

Dangerous Weight Loss

Common supplements containing a chemical “nearly identical to amphetamine” were studied and documented by the Food and Drug Administration, but not made public. The chemical, BMPEA, has already been banned from sale in Canada for the health risks it poses. The FDA found nine supplements available in the US contained the chemical but failed to release the names of the supplements. The FDA has issued warnings to companies for mislabeling BMPEA as a “dietary ingredient,” but these warnings only required the companies to fix their labels. After this opaque non-act by the FDA, a group of US academics conducted their own tests, and actually identified the potentially dangerous supplements which included BMPEA.

Document: (Note: this is an example of a document where the FDA DID warn of danger, what they should do with the BMPEA drugs)

Source: New York Times, Anahad O’Connor

ISIS Leaflets

The Pentagon has disclosed a gruesome leaflet it has dropped over Syria in its attempts to deter would be recruits from joining the Islamic State. UC Central Command has confirmed that a single U.S. Air Force F-15E fighter aircraft carrying a PDU-5B leaflet canister dropped 60,000 graphic anti-ISIS propaganda leaflets over Raqqa, Syria in an attempt to curb militant violence. The leaflet depicts a monstrous-looking member of the Islamic State militant group urging a frightened young man to step forward, as another militant shoves a man head-first through a meat grinder. A sign overhead says “Daesh Recruiting Office.”

CENTCOM leaflet for "Daesh Recruiting Office".

CENTCOM leaflet for “Daesh Recruiting Office”.


Expensive Espionage

The CIA has declassified 944 cables about the “Billion Dollar Spy” Adolf Tolkachev, once the CIA’s most valued and successful spy in the USSR. Tolkachev, an engineer and specialist in airborne radar, provided the CIA with documents and drawings that unlocked the secrets of Soviet radars and weapons research years into the future. He also smuggled circuit boards and blueprints out of his military laboratory. His spying provided incalculable usefulness to US experts. Tolkachev spied for the CIA from 1979 through 1985, before ultimately being compromised, arrested, and executed. Now the declassified documents about his case provide and incalculable asset to those interested in the tradecraft of how the CIA runs a spy.


Credit: David Hoffman

Has the FBI infiltrated *your* university?

Has the FBI infiltrated *your* university?

To China with Love

The Federal Bureau of Investigation attempted to keep secret emails released under Florida’s public records law describing how the Bureau tried to gain the University of South Florida’s help in coercing one of its faculty members, Dajin Peng, to spy on China. In the contested emails, an FBI agent asked a USF senior vice president to make a “show of support” for Peng and asked the VP to arrange a meeting for Peng and a visiting Chinese dignitary. The FBI agent also suggested that a USF campus could be opened in China –which Peng could use as his base for intelligence-gathering.

Peng was vulnerable to FBI coercion because of a series of transgression he allegedly committed including: padding expense accounts, making false statements in letters supporting visa applications for Chinese students, and making inappropriate sexual advances toward other professors.

The arrangement ended when USF leadership realized it was not in the university’s interests to be a pawn to the FBI. “This seems to me to be a very unfortunate situation and I do not think we want to be involved any longer,” wrote the senior vice president in an email. After serving two separate suspensions administered by the University, Peng was scheduled to return to USF in 2015.

The FBI had claimed that the emails detailing this attempt to create a spy “confidential,” “sensitive,” and “for official use only,” and that the information was somehow “loaned” to the University of Southern Florida. Fortunately, USF retained custody of the e-mails in keeping with Florida’s strong public-records law, and released the emails in response to a request from the public as it was legally required to do.


Click to access peng-3.pdf

Credit: Daniel Golden, Bloombert

 March 2000 notes of Chiquita Senior Counsel Robert Thomas indicate awareness that payments were for security services.

March 2000 notes of Chiquita Senior Counsel Robert Thomas indicate awareness that payments were for security services.

Deadly Fruit

Thousands of pages of documents released by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in response to a FOIA request show that Chiquita Banana committed illegal payments to a Colombian terrorist organization, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, a group responsible for egregious acts of violence during Colombia’s civil war. One of these Chiquita documents, a draft legal memo from 1994, said that “the Guerrilla Groups are used to supply security personnel at the various farms.” Panicked, handwritten annotations on the margins of the document ask: “Why is this being written?” Another Chiquita lawyer recorded on his notepad that Chiquita Bananas considered paying terrorists a “cost of doing business in Colombia.”


Credit: National Security Archive, Michael Evans

Private Prisons

A series of federal and state open records requests filed by MuckRock’s Private Prison Project has brought attention to the shadowy private prison industry. In response to overcrowded state prisons, private companies have turned a profit by promising to build up quickly, hire local employees at below-government rates, and spend less to hold more people. The result, according to the project, “is a rash of towns across America where a huge chunk of the population is incarcerated and where the city’s financial well-being relies on the continuance of tough-on-crime legislation and enforcement, no matter the human or economic cost.”


Credit: MuckRock, Beryl Lipton

SS to the SS

An Inspector General report revealed that the Social Security Administration “paid $20.2 million in benefits to 133 individuals alleged, or found, to have participated in Nazi persecution.” Some of the payments were made as recently as 2015. The report further noted that nearly all of the payments were proper under policies in effect at the time, and that the benefits could not be suspended until an individual was deported. According to the report, many of the payments were made legally before the No Social Security for Nazi’s Act was signed into law in December 2014.


Going Postal

While many Americans are angry about the National Security Agency’s digital surveillance practices, the US Postal Service is keeping it old school –photographing and recording the outside of your physical letters and packages. A FOIA request has led to the disclosure of this program, called Mail Covers. Mail Covers allows USPS workers to record information found on the outside of envelopes and packages for law enforcement agencies before parcels are delivered. The declassified IG audit found USPS didn’t maintain “sufficient controls” to ensure employees followed protocol for handling the mail covers and inspectors “failed to follow key safeguards in the gathering and handling of classified information.” The document also revealed that the IRS, FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were the most frequent users of the Mail Covers program.


Credit: New York Times, Ron Nixon; Sai (a security researcher that goes by a single name).

SarkisMerchant of Death

Sarkis Soghanalian was the Cold War’s largest arms dealer; declassified documents show he made over $12 million a year at his peak, and had his hand in seemingly every major conflict across the globe – with the U.S. government’s tacit approval. His largest weapons deal was a $1.6 billion sale to the Saddam Hussein regime at the outset of the Iran-Iraq War that included U.S. helicopters and French artillery, and he sold arms to groups in Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, and Peru from the 1970s through the 2000s. Soghanalian was nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” for arming so many conflicts, a moniker he dismissed on the grounds that Alfred Nobel was named the same thing for inventing gunpowder, “and then they named it the Nobel Prize.” At one moment the U.S. government indicted Soghanalian for, among other things, wire fraud and violating United Nations sanctions, and freed him another once he provided useful intelligence. His larger-than-life deals were so well known that he was the inspiration for Nicholas Cage’s character Youri Orlov in the 2005 film, Lord of War.


Credit: National Security Archive, Lauren Harper

The CIA's declassified map of Groom Lake/Area 51.

The CIA’s declassified map of Groom Lake/Area 51.

The Truth is Out There

The CIA has declassed the existence of Area 51. The existence of the infamous site was revealed in the Agency’s secret history of the U2 spy plane, which was tested there. Declassified documents also show that another primary purpose of Area 51 was develop and test the U.S. Air Force’s top secret stealth programs in the 1970s and 1980s, including the F-117. Area 51 was also used to study the capabilities of secretly acquired Soviet MiG fighters. These included a MiG stolen and provided to the US via Israel by an Iraqi defector in 1966 and codenamed “HAVE DOUGHNUT.” Two other stolen MiGs which were secretly tested at Area 51 were codenamed “HAVE DRILL” and “HAVE FERRY.”

Documents: (MiG on page 5)

Credit: National Security Archive, Jeffrey T. Richelson

Jay and Bey collabed with the feds to get to Cuba.

Jay and Bey collabed with the feds to get to Cuba.

Bey and Jay go to Cuba

 Jay-Z and Beyoncé filed the proper paperwork to spend their wedding anniversary in Cuba. According to documents released by the Department of the Treasury (which enforced the US travel embargo of Cuba), their trip was a legal “educational exchange” under the license of the Sir John Soane Museum Foundation.

And the Cuba trip wasn’t the first time that Beyoncé was involved in a FOIA request. After reports that the singer may have lip-synced while singing with the Marine Corps band at President Obama’s inauguration, MuckRock filed a FOIA request for any recordings of her voice that she may have lipsynced to. The Marine Corp’s response: “please note that Ms. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s vocals/music do not belong to the Marine Corps. Therefore, you will have to send your request directly to Ms. Knowles-Carter’s attorney.” No word yet how that turned out.

Documents: (names are on page 17)


Credit: MuckRock: Michael Morisy, CJ Ciaramella

The guacamole recipe that Jack White threw a hissy fit over after University of Oklahoma student journalists properly used OK Open Records laws to win its release. They also showed OU students paid XXX for the pleasure of hearing Mr. White play.

The guacamole recipe that Jack White threw a hissy fit over after University of Oklahoma student journalists properly used OK Open Records laws to win its release. They also showed OU students paid over $80,000 for the pleasure of hearing Mr. White play.

High Maintenance

The University of Oklahoma’s The Oklahoma Daily used an open records request to obtain musician Jack White’s tour demands. The journalists were attempting to find out how much the school was paying for White’s performance. It received the cost (more than $80,000) and much more information including the fact that White hates bananas (“we don’t’ want to see bananas anywhere in the building”), and White required “fresh home-made guacamole” … even providing a recipe.

In response to this disclosure, White wrote a rant saying “this is none of your business,” that he was “disappointed” in the journalists at The Daily, and called the guacamole requirement and recipe “my hilarious tour managers inside joke.” Here’s the recipe:

Document: (guac recipe is on third to last page)

Credit: The Oklahoma Daily

To the Moon

Before Neil Armstrong took his “small step for man,” both the Army and the Air Force were drawing up plans for their own lunar bases. An Army study entitled Project Horizon, argued that a military moon base could monitor both Earth and space, eavesdrop on radio communications, and be used to launch operations from lunar surface. The Air Force proposed to use its future lunar base to create “a Lunar Based Earth Bombardment System.” Yup, to bomb the earth from the moon. Fortunately, the civilian National Aeronautics and Space Administration took over and established the United States’ peaceful space and lunar programs.


Credit: National Security Archive, Jeffrey T. Richelson

Blowing Up the Moon

In 1959, another Air Force study suggested delivering a nuclear device to the surface or to the vicinity of the moon, where it would be detonated. Carl Sagan, who was not yet famous, contributed to the study. According to the scientists, “The motivation for such a detonation is clearly threefold: scientific, military and political.” The project ended when Air Force leadership wisely decided that the risks of transporting a nuclear device to the moon and then detonating it exceeded any potential benefit.

Document: (Quote on page 10, Carl Sagan’s name on page 5.)

Credit: National Security Archive, Jeffrey T. Richelson

Nixon and Elvis

At 6:30 AM on December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley dropped a letter for President Richard Nixon at a White House gate. It said, “Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out.” He asked to meet Nixon, and stated that he would be staying at a nearby hotel under the pseudonym “Jon Burrows.” Nixon aid Egil “Bud” Krogh –an Elvis fan– decided a meeting would be a good idea, and set it up.

Around 12:00, Elvis arrived at the White House with a present for the president –a Cold .45 Pistol, mounted in a display case. According to notes took at the meeting: “Presley indicated that he thought the Beatles had been a real force for anti-American spirit.” Nixon “indicated that those who use drugs are also those in the vanguard of anti-American protest.”

The King told the President “I’m on your side” and then asked the president for a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, which he eventually received.

During the visits, White House photographers snapped more than two dozen photos of the two. A photo of Nixon and Elvis is now said to be the single most reproduced document at the US National Archives, sold on more T-shirts, coffee mugs, and magnets than even the Declaration of Independence or Constitution.


Acoustic Kitty Diagram

Acoustic Kitty Diagram


The cat’s out of the bag: the CIA has done some ridiculous experiments. According to a declassified March 1967 report entitled “Views on Trained Cats [Redacted] for [Redacted] Use,” the CIA stuffed a real, live cat with electronic spying equipment and attempted to train it to spy on America’s Cold War rivals. The report states that Acoustic Kitty (as the project is commonly known) was a “remarkable scientific achievement.” Unfortunately, the report also states that the continued use of live cats as eavesdropping devices “would not be practical.”

According to Victor Marchetti, who worked as special assistant to the director of Central Intelligence:

“A lot of money was spent. They slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity. They tested him and tested him. They found he would walk off the job when he got hungry, so they put another wire in to override that. Finally they’re ready. They took it out to a park and pointed it at a park bench and said, ‘Listen to those two guys…’ They put him out of the van, and a taxi comes and runs him over. There they were, sitting in the van with all those dials, and the cat was dead!”

Acoustic Kitty’s price tag was reported to be $15 million.


Credit: National Security Archive

DARPA's shark experiments.

DARPA’s shark experiments.

Shark Tales

 DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is a big fan of sharks. In one sideshow entitled “Shark Sensory Capabilities.” The agency explains, essentially, that sharks have a type of “sixth sense:” the ability to sense and understand electromagnetic fields. And of course, the military is willing to pay big money to research this phenomenon with the hope that it will advance the United States’ warfighting capabilities.

In 2006, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, working with Boston University marine biologists, developed “a fish tag whose goal is attaining behavior control of host animals via neural implants.” That’s right, the US military put implants into sharks’ brains and can now control the animals remotely. Ostensibly, these sharks could be used to survey ships, submarines, mines, or undersea cables…. Or Attack!

Document (DARPA slide explains  Induced Electric Current.)

Killer Dolphins

A dog’s keen sense of smell can detect bombs or land mines on land, but not in the water. For this, the US Navy often relies on the biological sonar of dolphins, also known as echolocation, to locate or remove sea mines. There is an entire program dedicated to studying, training, and developing dolphins and other marine mammals, called the Navy Marine Mammal Program. In 1996, the Secret Service used Navy dolphins to protect the Republican National Convention in the port of San Diego, and both dolphins and sea lions have removed mines and protected ships in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. The Navy has called their dolphins “a strong deterrent against terrorist attacks.” Russia has also reportedly developed its own programs.

Possible Documents: (some images)–Mine-Warfare-in-China-s-Ne (control f dolphin)

The bin Laden doll after the top layer of paint faded away. Photo by Adam Goldman/The Washington Post

The bin Laden doll after the top layer of paint faded away. Photo by Adam Goldman/The Washington Post

UBL Action Figure

The CIA has attempted to fight the next generation of Islamic terrorism by making scary dolls of Osama bin Laden. The doll, designed by former Hasbro executive Donald Levine, had a face that was designed to frighten children and painted with “a heat-dissolving material, designed to peel off and reveal a red-faced bin Laden who looked like a demon, with piercing green eyes and black facial markings” – and to distribute them in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The National Security Archive has filed a FOIA for more information about the doll, but has yet to receive any documents from the CIA, which said it was busy processing a similar request for another requester, and would notify us when processing was complete. So far not a word. Levine also helped create a board game called Snakes and Ladders, which features “comical” depictions of “prominent terror leaders such as Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.”

Snakes and Ladders.

Snakes and Ladders.

Credit: Adam Goldman, Washington Post

Shutting Down the Internet

In 2011, San Francisco BART subway officials shut down cell phone service during a peaceful protest, revealing that some government officials view cellular communication as a privilege, not a right. The Department of Homeland Security has the ability to shut down cell phone and Internet service on a much larger level, and they are fighting to keep it secret. In 2006, the Bush administration reached a secret agreement with telecom giants specifying how and when the government can shut down cellular and data networks, called Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 303. The Electronic Privacy and Information Center is fighting in a FOIA lawsuit for this plan’s release. EPIC has won its lawsuit in a district court, but a federal appeals court reversed that opinion. EPIC has appealed to the Supreme Court to force DHS to reveal the details of SOP 303.


Credit: Electronic Privacy and Information Center


“I have no words to explain the effect the LSD had on me, although, I can say it was a positive life changing experience for me and I am glad I went through that experience.”  –Steve Jobs, being interviewed for a security clearance.

Apples on Acid

The FBI has released its file on Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. The declassified file includes backgrounds checks conducted for his presidential appointment to the Export Council in 1991 and for the Top Secret security clearance he held while working at Pixar. The checks largely show that while Jobs was a difficult man to understand, there was nothing in his past that could be used to blackmail him. Most of the redacted interviewees spoke of Jobs in positive terms, though one said he had “a tendency to distort reality in order to achieve his goals.” In his signed statement for his DOD clearance, Jobs attempted to describe his drug use, including marijuana and LSD: “I have no words to explain the effect the LSD had on me, although, I can say it was a positive life changing experience for me and I am glad I went through that experience.” His security interviewers bought it. He was granted both clearances.

Document: LSD quote:

FBI dox:


“Illegal use of drugs” but “no adverse threats or actions.”

The FBI Discovers Burning Man

The FBI has spied on Burning Man. FBI surveillance documents, released under FOIA, show that since at least 2010 the FBI has attended and monitored the 70,000 person Burning Man festival in Black Rock, Nevada. The FBI squarely describes Burning Man as “a cultural and artisan event, which promotes free expression by the participants,” and reports that “the greatest known threat in this event is crowd control issues and the use of illegal drugs by participants.” Who knows? Maybe the FBI agents had a good time. Their “case closed” memo states that “this event took place with no adverse threats or actions.”


Credit: JPat Brown, Muckrocu

Walt Disney’s FBI File

According to his declassified FBI file, Walt Disney wanted children who visited Tomorrowland at Disneyland to learn about a futuristic version of the FBI. FBI documents refer to Walt Disney as a close “contact” to the Bureau and noted that Disneyland had been offered to the Bureau for “official matters and recreational purposes.”

Walt Disney also repeatedly approached the FBI about the possibility of devoting an episode of the beloved children’s show “Mickey Mouse Club” to the FBI, the episode was eventually aired in 1958 and the script called for a 13-year-old Mickey Mouse Club member to meet J. Edgar Hoover and for agents to shoot at a fake “Baby Face” Nelson.

The FBI did nix one of Walt Disney’s ideas for the show. Disney wanted the Mickey Mouse Club member to handle a weapon. The FBI didn’t think this was a good idea: “The handling of a supposedly loaded weapon by a boy of Dirk’s age is not considered appropriate.”

The file also confirms that Disney informed FBI director J Edgar Hoover of “communist infiltration” that Disney believed had caused his animators to go on strike in 1941.


Credit: Matthew Guariglia


The corpus of declassified documents on the September 11, 2011, attacks on the State Department compound in Benghazi has been released. They show that between 8:30 and 9 pm members of local Islamist militias somewhat spontaneously seized upon worldwide protest against an “anti-Islam” video, Innocence of Muslims, and attacked the US diplomatic outpost there, assembling around its gates.

At 9:42 attackers breached the gates. By 10:10 a CIA support team evacuates the staff but lose Ambassador Stevens and IT Management Officer Sean Smith in the smoke. Around 1:00 AM locals find the ambassador and took him to a nearby hospital, where he died of smoke inhalation. The next day at 5:15 AM diplomatic security agents Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty are killed attempting to return fire to a mortar attack at the CIA annex.

The administration has admitted to making two mistakes: first the State Department failed to provide sufficient security at Benghazi. Second, Obama administration officials –most prominently Susan Rice– initially relayed incorrect CIA assessments that mischaracterized how the attack began. While some attackers were angry about the Innocence of Muslims film, there was no “protest,” it was an attack that overwhelmed the State Department building’s defenses.




Hillary Clinton’s emails.

To date, Hillary Clinton’s emails, released in response to a FOIA request after it was reveal that she had stored them on her personal server, show little about the decisions she made as Secretary of State, but much about her dependence on staff members.

She needs a staff members to train her to use her new iPad “do you think you can teach me how to use it on the flight to Kyev next week?”×0/filters:no_upscale()/

She tasks her staffers to research things that she should be able to Google: “Can you give me times for two TV shows: Parks and Recreation and The Good Wife?””

She can’t work a fax:

She needs her iced tea!

CIA's Conference Room Assassination Plan.

CIA’s Conference Room Assassination Plan.

How the CIA Assassinates a Conference Room Full of People

The CIA has released its technique on how to assassinate a conference room full of people. The CIA boasts that by using its “effective technique…a room containing as many as a dozen subjects can be ‘purified’ in about 20 seconds.” The conference assassination technique comes from a declassified guide entitled “Study of Assassinations. It requires two assassins to take tums, surprising, intimidating, corralling, and shooting, their victims. The last, most important step: “Leave[] propaganda.”

Credit: National Security Archive, Peter Kornbluh


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