secrecy {fragments}

~ musings on secrecy ~

“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

Privacy Toolkit Circa 1993

The other day I ran across some ancient copies of Whole Earth Review. The fall 1993 issue stood out because of its still compelling discussion of the right to privacy, surveillance,”target marketers,” and privacy law. “A Privacy Toolkit,” compiled by Robert Luhn, is almost an annotated bibliography, and includes reviews of Gary Marx’s Undercover,  Abbie Hoffman and Jonathan Silver’s 1987 Steal This Urine Test, and Lee Lapin’s How to Get Anything on Anybody: The Encyclopedia of Personal Surveillance (Paladin Press, 1991). Of particular interest is Marc Rotenberg’s “Privacy Shelf,” which recommends Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis’ influential 1890 Harvard Law Review article “The Right to Privacy.” In 1993, Rotenberg was Director of the Washington DC office of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (he is now Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center or EPIC). There’s also a mention of advocacy groups, such as EFF.

Here’s the Toolkit: PrivacyToolkit_Whole Earth

Written by S.

June 17, 2016 at 8:04 pm

Posted in privacy, surveillance

Ms. Mae Brussell

While working on a research project last year, I submitted a FOIA request to several federal agencies on the subject of investigative researcher Ms. Mae Brussell. Upon her death in 1988, Ms. Brussell left an impressive body of work on conspiracy theories and political assassinations. Many of Ms. Brussell’s radio shows that broadcast in the Bay area in the 1970s-1980s are fully available on YouTube,  World Watchers, and other places on the Web.

I submitted FOIA requests to the following U.S. government bodies with very 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.” 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
  • The FBI released only forty-two pages. I appealed this decision to DOJ’s Office of Information Policy and rec’d the following response: OIP_denial

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

Written by S.

June 8, 2016 at 2:02 am

MDR Appeal

In December of 2014, I submitted a Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) of NSC 10/5 related records currently held at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. If you’re not familiar with 10/5, here’s a brief rundown on NSC 10/5 from the Foreign Relations of the United States series volume titled Western Europe, 1964-1968:

NSC 10/5, issued in October 1951, reaffirmed the covert action mandate given in NSC 10/2 and expanded CIA’s authority over guerrilla warfare. The PSB was soon abolished by the incoming Eisenhower administration, but the expansion of CIA’s covert action writ in NSC 10/5 helped ensure that covert action would remain a major function of the Agency.

Coordination and Policy Approval of Covert Operations dated February 23, 1967 offers a more extensive view of NSC 10/5 (at Cryptome).

My MDR request was denied by NARA in late December 2015. I submitted an appeal to the National Archives and Records Administration. My appeal letter is here. Thanks goes out to National Security Archive’s Dr. William Burr for assistance.

Written by S.

January 22, 2016 at 9:00 pm

Billee Shoecraft’s Sue the Bastards

A fairly recent article appearing in Truthout on the use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War brought to mind what is now considered ancient – lost-  history: the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) aerial spraying of 2,4,5-T (TCDD) and related herbicides in the Tonto National Forest near the rural area of Globe, Arizona in the 1960s.

The case is somewhat documented on the Web and in newspaper articles available from the google newspaper archive. No one source, however, documents the story with more passion and determination than Ms. Billee Shoecraft. For the first time on the Web, a basic, but readable scan of Ms. Shoecraft’s 1971 first hand account titled Sue the Bastards is now available.*

In retelling the history of the use of defoliants near Globe, Ms. Shoecraft cites the April 7 and 15, 1970 Senate Committee on Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and the Environment hearings Effects of 2, 4, 5-T on Man and the Environment. Shoecraft writes:

Except for a little mountain town named Globe, Arizona, these hearings might never have been held, and the use of these defoliants might not have been stopped in Vietnam and other areas around the world. As a result of those hearings, the world of deformities in plants, animals and humans may have a few less members, and the disease known as cancer may claim a few less victims. Possibly some of the findings disclosed may force us to realize that man as he now exists is on the verge of extinction. During the Senate hearings, it was disclosed that the chemical defoliants 2-4D and 2,4,5-T caused deformities in at least five animal species. A government study known as the “Bionetics Report”, which cost three and one half million dollars, was begun in 1963 and completed in 1968. This report had also shown that these chemicals produced deformities, but the information it contained was kept secret.** These chemicals were developed at Ft Detrick, Md., during World War ll to be used as biological war weapons. *** These are the chemicals that have been used in Vietnam against the enemy. These are the chemicals that were used by the government in Globe, Arizona. (p.vii)

Shoecraft’s story begins with the question “is it less of a crime to use biological war weapons in America than it is in Vietnam?” (p. viii).

Shoecraft’s almost autobiographical work is an homage to wild Arizona; it is a bittersweet account of living in a “little town at the foot of a mountain we love and would die for” (p.41). It is a story of the land ethic. In weaving her tale, Shoecraft illustrates the outside world is never far off; it permeates across time and space, often coming to rest in unexpected and critical ways. It is here that Globe, Arizona is forever connected to the some of the most destructive events of the Vietnam War, Operation Hades (renamed to Operation Ranch Hand).****

In attempting to reconstruct the details of the sprayings during the years 1965-1969, Shoecraft encountered what she describes as the “creeping sickness of bureaucracy” (p. 6). She writes of the lack of transparency and accompanying uncertainty of not knowing what chemicals were sprayed and in what amounts:

This area has now been exposed to five aerial sprayings covering a period of four years, with 2-4D’ 2,4,5-T’ and 2’4’5-f (Silvex) in various strengths and formulations What exactly was used where or when, or in what mixture, appears to be unknown. At least in the last spraying, June, 1969, water was substituted for oil, which more or less caused the chemicals to reach their targets undiluted. (p.7)

In Sue, Shoecraft describes the dramatic July 24, 1969 funeral procession from Globe to Phoenix, where an “ancient hearse” held a coffin of “fruit trees, garden plants, and other foliage which were allegedly killed” by Silvex (p. 37). Shoecraft is careful to point out the procession was not a ” ‘publicity stunt’ for  ‘publicity’s sake.’ ”  The somber event was the

Only way we knew to let you know about what had happened here that was so wrong! And that it must not happen anywhere again! This was the oniy way we knew to break the strangle hold of suppressing what we had already seen first hand about the effects of “phenoxy herbicides.”

I had always believed until this happened that if something has been done, unless it is intentional. which is wrong and the person’s attention is called to it, that he will try to make it right again. But this was not the case. The threat of more spraying was hanging over us. And those who had injured us showed no remorse or regrets. (p.41)

With other Globe citizens, including Bob McCray, Shoecraft sued the USFS and Dow Chemical for spraying  “Kuron,” Dow’s trade name for the defoliant Silvex (2,4,5-TP). Two chemicals in Agent Orange, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, are found in Kuron.

Ms. Shoecraft passed away in 1977. A settlement was reached with Dow in 1981 with an accompanying gag order.


* Sue the Bastards appears to be out of copyright. If Shoecraft family members have objections to offering the text here, please contact me. For an additional account on the role of Ms. Shoecraft and the Globe sprayings, see Amy M. Hay’s (2012) “Dispelling the ‘Bitter Fog’: Fighting chemical defoliation in the American West.” Endeavour, 36(4), 174-185.

** Secret and hidden no more, I make the three volumes of the Bionetics reports publicly available here:

Evaluation of Carcinogenic, Teratogenic, and Mutagenic Activities of Selected Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals. Volume I. Carcinogenic Study, 1963 – August 1968: bionetics_eval_vol1_PB223159

Evaluation of Carcinogenic, Teratogenic, and Mutagenic Activities of Selected Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals. Volume II. Teratogenic Study in Mice and Rats, 1963 – August 1968: bionetics_eval_vol2_PB223160

Evaluation of Carcinogenic, Teratogenic, and Mutagenic Activities of Selected Pesticides and Industrial Chemicals. Volume III. Mutagenic Study in Bacteria, 1963 – August 1968: bionetics_eval_vol3_PB223161

Thomas Whiteside’s February 7, 1970 New Yorker article titled “”A Reporter at Large: Defoliation” is reprinted in the Senate hearings. The article recounts the delay in publishing the Bionetics volumes (p.113-115). Whiteside identifies the role of law student Anita Johnson of “Nader’s Raiders” in first recognizing the significance of the report(s).

*** See p.108 and p. 128 of the Senate hearings; the hearings are illuminating for their discussion of Rocky Mountain Arsenal by Congressmen Richard McCarthy (D-NY) on p.152. The 1969 Mrak report, or the Report of the Secretary’s Commission on Pesticides and their Relationship to Environmental Health, Parts I and II (Chairman E.M. Mrak) U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, is also discussed at length.

**** Operation Ranch Hand is the code name for herbicide spraying by the U.S. Air Force in Southeast Asia from 1962 through 1971. See  William A. Buckingham, Jr.’s Operation Ranch Hand: The Air Force and Herbicides in Southeast Asia, 1961-1971 (Office of Air Force History, 1982), Retrieved from

Also see Alvin L. Young, et al., The Toxicology, Environmental Fate, and Human Risk of Herbicide Orange and its Associated Dioxin (USAF Occupational and Environmental Health Laboratory, Aerospace Medical Division, 1978), Retrieved from and D.A. Butler’s (2005). Connections: The early history of scientific and medical research on Agent Orange. Journal of Law and Policy, 13, 527-552.

Written by S.

August 17, 2015 at 12:02 am