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ODNI’s Tet Declassification Project Releases Documents, New Info on Eligible Receiver 97, and More: FRINFORMSUM 8/2/2018

August 2, 2018

Tet Declassification Project Releases First Batch of Documents

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence recently published the first set of documents for its Vietnam War Tet Offensive declassification project. The sleek website dedicated to the project includes a documentary of Intelligence Community historians discussing the Offensive and a bibliography for the project; all of the documents released to date can be found here. Two additional sets of documents will be published in January and April of 2019.

Earlier this year ODNI director Dan Coats directed the Intelligence Community “to review their holdings to reveal previously classified details to the public” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Tet Offensive. The move came a year after former ODNI head James Clapper “instructed the Intelligence Community Senior Historians Panel to identify topics of historical interest for declassification and release, as a part of the IC’s continuing efforts to enhance public understanding of IC activities.”

John Prados, the Archive’s Vietnam Project director, will have an analysis of the release next week. For interested scholars and researchers, the Archive’s Vietnam Project has a number of declassified documents on the Offensive.

Eligible Receiver 97: Seminal DOD Cyber Exercise Included Mock Terror Strikes and Hostage Simulations

An early classified Defense Department cybersecurity exercise named “Eligible Receiver 97” (ER97) featured a previously unpublicized series of mock terror attacks, hostage seizures, and special operations raids that went well beyond pure cyber activities. The exercises demonstrated the potential scope of threats to U.S. national security posed by attacks in the cyber domain, according to recently declassified documents and a National Security Agency (NSA) video posted by the Archive.

ER97 involved an NSA Red Team playing the role of North Korean, Iranian and Cuban hostile forces whose putative aim was to attack critical infrastructure as well as military command-and-control capabilities to pressure the U.S. government into changing its policies toward those states. An interagency Blue Team was required to provide recommendations to personnel enacting defensive responses. Until now, only two phases out of three (infrastructure and command-and-control) had been publicly known. The video and documents posted by the Archive provide new details about the third phase involving kinetic attacks in the physical domain – i.e. more traditional terrorist assaults on civilian targets – which were built upon intelligence gathered through the Red Team’s successes.

Judge Lets Secret Service Hide White House Visitor Logs

Federal Judge Katherine Failla agreed with government lawyers and is allowing the Secret Service to hide the White House visitor logs in a FOIA lawsuit brought by the National Security Archive, together with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Judge Failla, of the Southern District of New York, relied on a 2013 D.C. Circuit ruling in finding that the visitor logs for core White House offices are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, although she agreed that certain other parts of the Executive Office of the President are covered.

“Our suit gave the court a chance to address the transparency deficit in the Trump White House, but the court ducked,” said Archive director Tom Blanton.  “Letting the Secret Service hide their records of everyone who lobbies the President is the opposite of what the Freedom of Information Act holds as American law and American values.”

Air Marshals Say Surveillance Program Shouldn’t Be Considered Surveillance

The Transportation Security Administration’s Air Marshals “have for years been quietly monitoring small numbers of U.S. air passengers and reporting on in-flight behavior considered suspicious, even if those individuals have no known terrorism links.” The surveillance program, called “Quiet Skies,” raises serious privacy concerns. It has been in place since 2010 and instructs agents to track passengers flying within the United States for purportedly suspicious behavior like sweating heavily and repeatedly using the restroom. According to the Washington Post, “marshals use an agency checklist to record passenger behavior: Did he or she sleep during the flight? Did he or she use a cellphone? Look around erratically?” A TSA spokesperson said that the program should not be considered surveillance “because the agency does not, for example, listen to passengers’ calls or follow flagged individuals around outside airports.”

Congress Says BMD Flight Test Schedules Must Be Unclassified

Congress told the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency that the flight test schedules of ballistic missile defense systems must be unclassified. The congressional action comes on the heels of the Defense Department classifying the schedule, which had previously been both unclassified and publicly disclosed. The requirement is included in the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act and “will effectively override the classification judgment of the executive branch. That is something that Congress rarely does and that the executive branch regards as an infringement on its authority.”

TBT Pick – Japan Plutonium Overhang

This week’s #TBT pick is chosen with Japan’s recent pledge to reduce its plutonium stockpiles, a possible major turning point for nuclear nonproliferation efforts, in mind. This week’s #TBT pick is a 2017 posting from our Nuclear Vault, showing that Japan’s long-standing aspirations to develop a “plutonium economy” troubled U.S. officials going back decades as early as the Jimmy Carter administration. Read the growing body of records that examine the history of Japan’s nuclear program here.

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