secrecy {fragments}

~ musings on secrecy ~

FOIA & Brussell

In March of 2015, I submitted FOIA requests to the CIA, Department of the Army, and FBI for the release of records on the subject of Mae Brussell. Ms. Brussell is an iconic researcher that not only left us an impressive body of research on political assassinations; perhaps her greatest contribution as an investigative journalist is raising critical questions on some of the most significant events of the 20th century.

I submitted FOIA requests to the following U.S. government bodies with exceedingly poor results:

CIA: “With respect to any other records, in accordance with section 3.6(a) of Executive Order 13526, the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request. The fact of the existence or nonexistence of requested records is currently and properly classified and is intelligence sources and methods information that is protected from disclosure by section 6 of the CIA Act of 1949, as amended, and section 102A(iXl) of the National Security Act of 1947 , as amended. Therefore, your request is denied pursuant to FOIA exemptions (bX1) and (bX3). An explanation of exemptions is enclosed.” Neither confirm nor deny is termed a Glomar response. Response: CIA_final

Department of the Army: “To determine the existence of Army intelligence investigative records responsive to your request, a check was made of the automated Defense Central lndex of lnvestigations (DCll). This index reflects the holdings of all investigative elements within the Department of Defense. As a result of the DCll check, no record responsive to your request was located.” Response: Army_final

FBI:  The Bureau released a disappointing 42 pages. Some of the material released include an extortion attempt investigated by the FBI’s San Francisco office as well as Brussell’s concern to the Sacramento office that her name might appear on a “death list” (p. 18). In this same document (10/22/75), it’s noted that “BRUSSEL is known to various police agencies on the Monterey Peninsula as a chronic complainer.” Of note too is a letter written by Brussell (November 15, 1975) that discusses her inclusion on a “surveillance list” after her work on the Watergate scandal was published. P. 23 is a handwritten letter that states “Mae is soon to have a serious accident”; pages 41-42 discuss a visit to Brussell’s home by “representatives of the U.S. Secret Service”; this document states that Brussell reports she was never fully informed as to the purpose of the interview, but taped the encounter. Secret Service agents quizzed Brussell about weapons in her possession, but Brussell replied “the only thing that she does have in the way of a weapon is a paring shears and hardly feels that that presents a threat to anyone.”

I appealed to DOJ’s Office of Information Policy to gain release of additional records and rec’d the following response: OIP_denial

Under FOIA in October, I requested records dealing with Ms. Brussell’s radio shows that broadcast in the Bay area in the 1970s-1980s. Many of these shows are fully available on YouTube,  World Watchers, and other places on the Web.

I encourage researchers to submit their own requests on Ms. Brussell.

Written by S.

November 2, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Insect Cyborgs & HI-MEMS/MAVS/NAVS

Under the Freedom of Information Act, in July 2015 I requested the following information from DARPA:

DARPA’s role in the development and application of Hybrid Insect Microelectromechanical Systems and microelectromechanical (HI-MEMS) systems. My request also includes release of records on the following subjects:

• Bioelectronic neuromuscular interfaces for insect cyborg flight control
• The Controlled Biological and Biomimetic Systems Program
• Insect-based MAVS/NAVS (Micro and Nano Air Vehicles)
• Insect cyborgs
• Microfluidic control of insect locomotor activity
• Radio-frequency system for neural flight control
• The use of Hybrid Insect Microelectromechanical Systems and microelectromechanical (MEMS) specifically related to bees

DARPA released 88 pages, including one report by Amit Lal titled “ Microsystems, Scaling, and Integration” found in DTIC.  Page 70 of the .pdf contains the header “Key Experiments in 1940s,” which is suggestive of a deepening interest – perhaps even by ARPA, the predecessor of DARPA – in creating “technology to reliably integrate microsystems payloads on insects to enable insect cyborgs” (p. 68).  Reading these documents can’t help but bring up those perennial ethical questions regarding human use and exploitation of animals in war, combat, and surveillance. Here’s the 88 page doc released under FOIA: 15-f-1559-case-documents.

Below is a short bib of materials that helped me grasp the finer points of this Promethean technology; I also included several items that sparked my interest in cyborgs and domination a while back, such as Donna Haraway’s complex work and Chris Hables Gray Cyborg Citizen (Chris was a member of my doc committee). Also included is a brand spanking new article by Hutson on the subject of insect cyborgs.

I’ll leave readers with a quote from Adam Dodd (2014) that sums up the current reality of projects involving HI-MEMS:

DARPA has no problem calling a cyborg a cyborg; indeed, the agency is not known for downplaying its own science fictional aspirations — quite the opposite, DARPA’S use of the term anchors my own: I am not discussing the cyborg as a material abstraction, as “a condensed figuration of both material reality and feminist/popular imagination… as an entry point into the contemporary turn to ontological issues within feminist theory and technoscience studies” (Âsberg, 2010, p. 1), though such discussions are not without utility. I am discussing, critiquing, and indeed reporting on, the cyborg as a material entity that exists in the here and now. (p. 162)


A Short Bib

Alberts, David, and Papp, Daniel S. (eds.). (2001). Information Age Anthology: The Information Age Military. Volume III. Center for Advanced Concepts and Technology, Advanced Concepts, Technologies, and Information Strategies Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University: Washington, DC.

Armstrong, Robert, Drapeau, Mark D., Loeb, Cheryl A., and Valdes, James J. (eds.). (2010). Bio-Inspired Innovation and National Security. Center for Technology and National Security Policy, National Defense University Press: Washington, DC. 

Chung, Aram J., and David Erickson. (2008). Microfluidic Control of Insect Locomotor Activity. In Proceedings of IMECE 2008 ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, October 31-November 6, 2008, Boston  (pp. 949-952).  (google scholar)

Delaney, Lois. (2011). Military Applications of Apiculture: The (Other) Nature of War. Masters of Military Studies Research Paper, Marine Corps University. ADA600636.

Dodd, Adam. (2014). The Trouble with Insect Cyborgs. Society & Animals 22, no. 2: 153-173. (google scholar)

Gray, Chris Hables. (2000). Cyborg Citizen: Politics in the Posthuman Age. New York: Routledge.

Hundley, Richard O., and Eugene C. Gritton. (1994). Future Technology-Driven Revolutions in Military Operations. Results of a Workshop. RAND-DB-110-ARPA.

Hutson, Matthew. (2016, November). Even Bugs Will Be Bugged. The Atlantic.

Kick, Russ. (2016, August 22). The Navy’s Remote-Controlled Sharks. The Memory Hole 2.

Kladitis, Paul E. (2010). How Small Is Too Small? Technology into 2035. Wright  Flyer Paper No. 46. Air University, Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB.

Lal, Amit. Microsystems, Scaling, and Integration (Briefing charts). (2007). DARPA Microsystems Technology Symposium, San Jose, California on March 5-7. ADA 503730. (Included in the above FOIA release and DTIC).

U.S. Department of Defense. (2007). Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2007-2032. ADA475002.


Black Mirror 3 (BM3) ep. 6 titled “Hated in the Nation” is pure synchronicity in terms of my FOIA post. The opening segment of this episode is a chilling announcement of extinction of the Siberian Crane, but also showed the dystopian replacement for honeybees: ATIs or autonomous cyborg bees, who replicate, create hives, and operate in the natural world via pattern recognition. The solar-fueled bees were activated “for the second summer” to pollinate in BM3’s futuretechnoworld. In a twist I didn’t see coming, the cyborg bees are dual use technology (tech that has civilian as well as military and/or national security applications). You can read more about the episode 6 at Thrillist as well as catch a glimpse at the cyborg pollinators.

It’s important to note that a DARPA document included in the FOIA release (if I’m interpreting the doc correctly) excluded bees as “insects too unpredictable (temperature, wind, humidity, mating, feeding, etc.)” (p.56) .

Written by S.

October 23, 2016 at 12:55 am

New Book

Written by S.

September 10, 2016 at 12:16 am

Posted in national security

Rep. Brian Babin Questions Former EPA Official on Agency’s Culture of Secrecy

Ran across this gem on youtube on EPA’s “culture of secrecy.” Rep. Babin questions former EPA staff member David Schnare but unfortunately there is no mention of how certain laws enable this culture (although the discussion of FOIA is enlightening).

To this end, I’ll shamelessly promote an article I wrote in 2014 on environmental secrecy, published in Sociological Imagination (not a full text journal). My article is here in pdf.


Recommended citation:

Maret, S. (2014). The Moynihan Commission’s secrecy by regulation and its value to environmental sociology. Sociological Imagination, 50(2), 105-137.

Written by S.

August 30, 2016 at 7:04 pm

“Sanitized” CAIB

While searching the CIA’s CREST database at College Park,  I retrieved a “sanitized” copy of Covert Action Information Bulletin, or CAIB (summer 1982 #17). CAIB was first published in 1978, with a title change with #43 to Covert Action Quarterly. Both iterations of the periodical included articles by many well-known journalists and activists. The subject of #17 is “US Fakes Data in Chemical War,” which examined the moratorium on chemical weapons and public concern (and secrecy) with biological warfare during the Nixon administration. The editors write that, “biological warfare is a crime against humanity, and the U.S. government insists it is not engaged in it. The evidence we present refutes those denials.”

The point of this post is not to dismiss the important forensic research published by CAIB/CAQ contributors, or foster debate regarding the parapolitcs of one of its founders, former CIA officer Philip Agee. What I find fascinating is that CIA would “sanitize” and approve for release material that is open source, a publication that had subscribers, could be copied, widely distributed – and held by public and academic libraries.* Nothing appears redacted within the fifty-two page issue, so not sure what “sanitized” for release actually means. This seems almost a failure of the security classification system in terms of cloaking embarrassing or contrary information.

As far as I can tell, a .pdf of #17 isn’t on the Web. Here it is: 17_CAIB fakedata


* A few years after the Church Committee hearings, two years before the CIA Information Act of 1984, and a good three years before CIA v Sims. It was the Reagan years of EO 12356.

Written by S.

June 17, 2016 at 9:08 pm