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More Dubious Secrets Found in’s Tet Declassified Project, and More: FRINFORMSUM 8/9/2018

August 9, 2018’s Tet Declassified A Step Backwards – More Dubious Secrets

Did post new, high-quality documents for the first release of its Tet Declassified project? In short, no. The National Security Archive’s John Prados, an expert on Vietnam and the intelligence community, examined the documents and found that, not only were the photos of reconnaissance missions blurry to the point of being unreadable, but the versions of documents posted most recently by were MORE redacted than previous releases of the exact same documents. Prados, pointing to several Presidents Daily Briefs that were published in 2015 by the CIA and that are inexplicably more redacted in the latest Tet release, notes that “the Tet collection is actually a step backwards. The people who assembled this Tet collection removed previously declassified text that had been already released.”

The Tet Declassified project inexplicably posts documents that have been previously released with far fewer redactions, such as this November 14, 1967 PDB.

Rather than spending 18 months and finite government resources building a website that re-releases less information than is already publicly available, the government and the public would be better served by adopting a “let it go” mentality for historical records.

Who Really Runs the VA?

Hundreds of documents obtained through FOIA help show the unprecedented influence of three Mar-a-Lago members over the Department of Veterans Affairs. The documents reveal that Marvel Entertainment chair Ike Perlmutter, lawyer Marc Sherman, and Palm Beach doctor Bruce Moskowitz have an arrangement with President Trump and the VA leadership that “is without parallel in modern presidential history.” The trio hover “over public servants without any transparency, accountability or oversight. The Mar-a-Lago Crowd spoke with VA officials daily, the documents show, reviewing all manner of policy and personnel decisions. They prodded the VA to start new programs, and officials travelled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to hear their views. ‘Everyone has to go down and kiss the ring,’ a former administration official said.”

Senate Democrats file FOIA Request for Kavanaugh Documents 

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have taken the “unprecedented step” of filing a series of FOIA requests to obtain records on Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh – a step senators should not have to take to conduct oversight. The FOIAs, submitted to the CIA, the National Archives, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, seek “documents tied to Kavanaugh’s three-year period as staff secretary for President George W. Bush.” The senators are seeking expedited processing of their request – an ask that is rarely granted to regular requesters. (The Senate Judiciary Committee also has oversight over FOIA, so if their requests languish or are over-redacted like most, the silver lining might be a push for more FOIA reforms.)

School Board Releases Highly Redacted Report on High School Shooter Nikolas Cruz – That is Totally Unredacted When Pasted into Microsoft Word

Journalists at the South Florida Sun Sentinel reporting on Nikolas Cruz, the gunman in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, won the release of a report commissioned by the local school district assessing how effectively the school dealt with Cruz before the shooting. The report was released in response to an order from Broward County judge, Elizabeth Scherer, and was more than 60% redacted. The heavy redactions made hid two incidents identified in the report where the school failed to deal appropriately with Cruz. The paper was alerted by an intrepid reader after publishing the initial report that, if you copy and pasted the text in Microsoft Word, the entire text was visible. The unobstructed text showed that, among other things, the school “did not follow though” on Cruz’s request to be transferred to a school for special education students. Lawyers for the school board are asking the judge to hold the paper and two of its reporters in contempt for publishing the unredacted version of the text.

Georgia Election Integrity

Open records requests in Georgia are helping shed light on the state’s election security in the lead-up to the 2016 election, and what the state’s Center for Election Services did and did not to do address the problem before and after the election.

In August 2016 the Georgia Center for Election Services was notified that their voting system and software were “completely open” and could be manipulated. In October, a Center scan showed “’40+ critical vulnerabilities’ in the election server, ‘most if not all’ of which the Center’s technical coordinator, Steven Dean, said would be solved by updating software.” In February 2017 cyber professionals found they were still able to access the state’s voter rolls, including Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information. In October 2017, “Cristina Correia, Georgia’s assistant attorney general, divulges in response to an open records request that the Center’s election server and a backup server used in 2016 were wiped clean on March 17.”

The timeline takes on special significance in the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s July 13 indictment of Russian intelligence officers indicating that they “visited the websites of certain counties in Georgia” and other states to probe for vulnerabilities.

Excessive U.S. sanctions could push Iran “over the brink”: UAE official to U.S. in 1995

U.S. allies from Europe and the Persian Gulf warned the Clinton administration that it would be “very dangerous” and “pose risks for the entire region” if Iran were isolated from the international community through overly burdensome sanctions, according to declassified cables recently published by the Archive. 

While most allies agreed that up to a point sanctions could have a positive effect on Iranian behavior, they argued that overly severe measures could cross a threshold that would not only fail to produce a strategic advantage but could backfire by inviting a sharply negative Iranian reaction.

The posting includes a number of additional State Department cables that provide important context for understanding subsequent U.S. thinking about sanctions toward Iran, as well as background for today’s announcement that the United States has moved to restore certain trade sanctions against Tehran.

TBT PICK – Washington Post Op-Ed Highlights Dubious Secrets

This week’s #TBT pick is chosen with “dubious secrets” in mind, and is a 2015 Washington Post op-ed from our Executive Director, Tom Blanton, on America’s ongoing overclassification problem. Blanton points out some uncomfortable truth for secuorocrats:

Let me get the suspense over with. Here’s a classified fact: We, the United States, based medium-range ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads in Turkey in 1962, which angered Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev so much that he put his own into Cuba.

Wait: I’ve read all about that. It’s been declassified, hasn’t it?

Well, yes. Except — in the immortal words of John F. Kennedy — “there’s always some son of a bitch who doesn’t get the word.”

The word is the Cold War is over, yet Cold War secrecy rules still control the government’s information systems.

The Defense Department still can’t bring itself to declassify nukes in Turkey, and Italy, and the 50 or so other countries where we idiotically stationed them during the Cold War.

Here at the National Security Archive, in our “Dubious Secrets” series, we have published hundreds of U.S. government documents that one office or official considers declassified, while another insists must stay secret. Whom do you listen to?

We have two versions of the same page of White House e-mail, addressed to then-deputy national security adviser Colin Powell, with the top and bottom blacked out from one review, and the middle blacked out from another, 10 days later. Turns out it was the same reviewer both times. So goes the highly subjective process of classification.

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