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The Archive’s New Interactive CyberWar Map and more: FRINFORMSUM 6/7/2018

June 7, 2018

The Archive’s New CyberWar Map

The National Security Archive is thrilled to announce the launch of our interactive CyberWar Map. The Map is both a visualization of state-sponsored cyberattacks and an index of documents in the Archive’s Cyber Vault relevant to the subject selected. Clicking on each node will reveal documents and analysis and the entire map will be particularly useful to researchers and those trying to identify a “bird’s eye view” of the cyber-battlefield.

The CyberWar Map is a living research aid: documents and nodes will be added on a regular basis.

ATF Rarely Punishes Gun Dealers for Illegal Sales     

FOIA requests help fuel a recent New York Times investigation into how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives rarely punishes gun sellers for a variety of violations. ATF inspection reports, obtained by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, help show that senior ATF officials “regularly overrule their own inspectors, allowing gun dealers who fail inspections to keep their licenses even after they were previously warned to follow the rules.” Violations cited – and ignored – include illegal weapons sales, failing to conduct background checks before selling a gun, and selling guns to felons.

The Times notes that while half of the 11,000 gun retailers that were inspected by ATF were cited for violations, less than 1 percent lost a license.

Appeals Court Tells DOE to Use Common Sense When Dealing with Requesters

The Department of Energy is trying to avoid responding to a FOIA request by claiming that only the individual who filled out the DOE’s online FOIA form – in this case Cheryl Brantley – could file a FOIA lawsuit over the DOE’s failure to respond to the request. The DOE argued that the organization Brantley indicated she worked for on the DOE FOIA form, A Better Way for BPA, did not have grounds to sue. The DOE took this position even though Brantley made clear in her initial request that she was requesting the information for her organization.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rebuked the Energy Department’s tactics, arguing “Any confusion in the electronic form was of BPA’s own making and could easily be fixed by including a place to check that the request is made ‘on behalf of’ an organization or by adding ‘public interest organization’ or ‘other’ options under Type of Requester.”

The appeals court sent the suit back to the district court, saying “common sense must be used when dealing with FOIA requesters, who are usually citizens untrained in the art of obfuscatory bureaucracy.”

Trump Told Cabinet to Praise Paris Exit – “No Exceptions”

FOIA-released emails “offer a behind-the-scenes look at how the White House ordered agency leaders to publicly praise Trump’s announcement on Paris.” The White House Press Office’s Kaelan Dorr sent an email instructing all cabinet-level agencies to prepare statements supporting the decision to leave the climate accord, “No exceptions.” Other emails show that the White House wanted all agencies to prepare statements to show that the decision to leave was the result of “an interagency policy process.”

Judge Calls EPA FOIA Dodge “Misplaced and Troubling”

Federal District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to produce documents on administrator Scott Pruitt’s claim that carbon dioxide was “not known to be a major factor in climate change.” Pruitt claimed on CNBC last March that he didn’t agree that carbon dioxide was a major contributor to global warming and “there’s a tremendous disagreement about the degree of the impact” of “human activity on the climate.” Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a FOIA request for any documents that might back up Pruitt’s claim, which contradicted evidence already shared by the EPA.

The EPA refused to comply with the FOIA, saying PEER’s request was overly broad and “would require EPA to spend countless hours researching and analyzing a vast trove of material on the effect of human activity on climate change,” which amounted to “a subjective assessment upon which reasonable minds can differ.”

Judge Howell disagreed, “calling the Agency’s objections ‘hyperbolic’ and saying that claiming PEER’s FOIA was unclear was ‘both misplaced and troubling.’” Howell also said, “When the head of an agency makes a public statement that appears to contradict ‘the published research and conclusions of’ that agency, the FOIA provides a valuable tool for citizens… Compliance with such a request would help ‘ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society.’”

Another FOIA request revealed that Pruitt’s spent nearly $1,600 on a set of customized fountain pens from a D.C.-area jewelry store.

NSA’s Internal Security Posters

The National Security Agency recently released more than a hundred motivational “security” posters from the 1950s through the 1970s in response to a FOIA request from Government Attic. The posters are a unique glimpse into the agency’s Cold War culture, with many posters from the 1950s containing overt Christian themes, to later ones from the 1970s picking up more pop culture references – including a spin on Saturday Night Fever.

The Archive’s Nate Jones tells Slate, “These posters were created when the Cold War was accelerating toward its hottest point. Almost all within the U.S. government thought that the Western capitalist system was in a struggle with the Soviet communist system for the future of the word. And as the posters show, they didn’t go light on propagating this to their employees.”

The NSA isn’t the only agency to use posters to reinforce its culture of secrecy. MuckRock has a collection of CIA secrecy posters from the 1970s here.

Frank Carlucci Remembered

Former defense secretary Frank Carlucci has died at the age of 87. Carlucci also served as national security adviser and CIA deputy director, and was classmates with both Donald Rumsfeld and Caspar Weinberger.

The National Security Archive’s primary source highlights from the career of one of Washington’s pre-eminent insiders – from Chile to Japan to the Reagan-Gorbachev nuclear summits – can be found here.

Carlucci’s oral-history interview with the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project is also a terrific resource that can be reached here.

TBT PickStanding on the Brink: The Secret War Scare of 1983

This week’s #TBT pick is chosen with a recent The Nation article on the nuclear war scare of 1983 in mind. The article notes that the Archive’s Nate Jones obtained “The Holy Grail” on the Able Archer 83 war scare- a secret 1990 report by the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and credits him for overseeing “a relentless campaign to pry classified material on Able Archer from the US government and publish it online. Anyone wanting to know about Able Archer now has a place to go and browse.”

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