Approximately a year ago, I used W. R. Derrick Sewell’s article “Weather and Climate Control” as a basis for a Freedom of Information Act request. In his article, Dr. Sewell cites a table that outlines planned and estimated funding for weather modification projects by federal agency. According to Interdepartmental Committee for Atmospheric Science (ICAS) data cited by Sewell, the Bureau of Reclamation (Department of the Interior) and National Science Foundation received the largest amount of funding during the years 1966-1973, with the Department of Defense, third in line (Sewell, 1973, p. 34). Using this information, I requested “any and all records regarding the historic use of weather modification, climate modification, geoengineering, and environmental and geophysical warfare operations and programs.” In the request, I also asked for records on Project Foggy Cloud, Project Overseed, Project Skyfire, the Santa Barbara Project, GLOMEX, BOMEX, NORPAX, Pop Eye, Blue Nile, Intermediary, and Compatriot. An exercise in FOIA futility, I received little response from agencies.
Agencies responded to requests as follows:
Air Force: Forwarded from DIA, the National & Air Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) responded:
A classification review was conducted with the utmost diligence to determine if the record you requested may be released in whole or in part. After reviewing the document it has been determined that some information can be released, but the FOIA requires that other portions be withheld because of classification and personal privacy interests. Listed below are the exemptions that apply to the requested document: United States Code, Title 5, Section 552(bxl); Executive Order 13526; united states Code, Title 5, Section s52(bx3), l0 u.s.C. 424. Section f.a(c); and United States Code, Title 5, Section 552(bX6).
NASIC released one document, heavily marked and not dated. The markings are fascinating reading as is info on “low-tech” weather mod: NASIC_weathermod_FOIA
CIA: Forwarded from DIA, the CIA responded they
Reviewed the material and determined it is currently and properly classified and must be denied in its entirety on the basis of FOIA exemptions (bXl) and (bX3). Exemption (b)(3) pertains to information exempt from disclosure by statute. The relevant statute is the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949,50 U.S.C. $ 4039, as amended, Section 6, which exempts from the disclosure requirement information pertaining to the organization and functions,-including those related to the protection of intelligence sources and methods.
DARPA: Released Climatic Reconstruction: A Synopsis of Methods and Data authored by N.A Frazier (August 3, 1971). The report discusses the Advanced Research Project Agency’s Nile Blue project.
Department of the Interior referred me to the Weather Modification and Atmospheric Research Reports, 1952 – 1993 (Record Group 115: Records of the Bureau of Reclamation, 1889 – 2008). DOI also sent the following enclosure, which upon review has little to do with my request: BOR-2013-00110.
DIA fowarded the request to the Air Force, CIA, NSA, and “other government agencies”:
A search of DIA’s systems of records located four documents (17 pages) responsive to the subject of your request. All documents have been referred to other government agencies for their review and direct response to you as they did not originate with DIA.
NSA (DIA referred) found:
The responsive document has been reviewed by this Agency as required by the FOIA and has been found to be currently and properly classified in accordance with Executive Order 13526. This document meets the criteria for classification as set forth in Subparagraph (c) of Section 1.4 and remains classified TOP SECRET as provided in Section I.2 of Executive Order 13526. The document is classified because its disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security. Because the document is currently and properly classified, it is exempt from disclosure pursuant to the first exemption of the FOIA (5 U.S.C. Section 552(bX1)).
I did not file any appeals with these agencies.
Dr. Sewell cites the table as originating in the following document: Interdepartmental Committee for Atmospheric Science. (1971). A national program for accelerating progress in weather modification, Report 15a. PB 203793, ICAS Report 15a. Springfield, VA: National Technical Information Service.
In response to last week’s news regarding the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground inadvertently distributing live samples of anthrax to labs in nine states, USA Today (May 28) is running a special investigation into biolabs. The report is authored by Alison Young and Nick Penzenstadler. Through their investigation, Young and and Penzenstadler found that
Oversight of biological research labs is fragmented, often secretive and largely self-policing, the investigation found. And even when research facilities commit the most egregious safety or security breaches — as more than 100 labs have — federal regulators keep their names secret.
Of particular concern are mishaps occurring at institutions working with the world’s most dangerous pathogens in biosafety level 3 and 4 labs — the two highest levels of containment that have proliferated since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. Yet there is no publicly available list of these labs, and the scope of their research and safety records are largely unknown to most state health departments charged with responding to disease outbreaks. Even the federal government doesn’t know where they all are, the Government Accountability Office has warned for years.
In the early days of the Web, the Sunshine Project, which ceased operations in 2008, was the watchdog source for information on the nation’s labs. Remnants of their Web pages may still be found at the Wayback Machine. Sunshine created one of the first maps available on the Web of facilities dotting the U.S. Sunshine’s online archive of Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) meeting minutes obtained under FOIA are still live. In 2004, Sunshine published an eight-month survey of 390 IBC committees across the United States titled Mandate for Failure The State of Institutional Biosafety Committees in an Age of Biological Weapons Research (here’s a copy).
What the USA Today investigation identifies is a continuing lack of publicity and transparency regarding the biolabs, and that oversight remains problematic.
U.S. Government Accountability Office. Chemical and Biological Defense:Designated Entity Needed to Identify, Align, and Manage DOD’s Infrastructure. GAO-15-257, June 25, 2015. (Contains maps).
U.S. Government Accountability Office. List of GAO reports on BSLs (2007-2015).
Today the Army begins destruction of decades old mustard gas at the Pueblo Chemical Depot. The technology used to destroy the chemical weapons is the Explosive Destructive System or EDS. I first learned about the EDS while serving on the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Restoration Advisory Board and attending an alternative tech meeting hosted by the NSCMP (Non-Stockpile Chemical Materiel Project).
The lost history of how the EDS came to Colorado – to the United States really – is documented at one of my other blogs as the puzzling case of the NSCMP and RMA. Enjoy reading about bureaucracy!
I recently published an article using secrecy as a form of regulation as theorized by the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy. The Commission, commonly referred to as the Moynihan Commission for its chairperson Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan, used secrecy as a form of regulation to critique historical and ongoing U.S. government information policies.
Below is the citation and abstract for this article:
Maret, S. (2014). The Moynihan Commission’s secrecy by regulation and its value to environmental sociology. Sociological Imagination, 50(2), 105-137.
In 1997, the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy devised the model of secrecy as a form of regulation to characterize the concealment of information within the Executive Branch. This article expands on the Commission’s conceptual work, applying it to those cases where information is cloaked from public scrutiny by environmental laws and policies, and results in unequal information between parties, or asymmetry. I theorize in this article that secrecy as a form of regulation is an important model in exploring how environmental laws and policies “regulate,” conceal, ignore, and remove information from public discourse. Secrecy as a form of regulation is also shown in tension with those environmental laws and policies that mandate the right to know, thus raising questions about authentic transparency.
[Due to copyright, head to your local library and request through interlibrary loan].
The upcoming thirteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks brings with it new commentary on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States’ (9/11 Commission) recommendations. The anniversary also brings with it a call to declassify and further investigate claims of alleged Saudi involvement in the attacks. These claims were initially made in the 2002 House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reports (often referred to as the Joint Inquiry).
To this end, my 2013 article Freudenburg beyond borders: Recreancy, atrophy of vigilance, bureaucratic slippage, and the tragedy of 9/11* deconstructs these two official accounts by way of sociologist Bill Freudenburg’s theory of recreancy, or institutional failure, as it applies to the 9/11 disaster.
* First appeared in Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, 21, pp.201- 223 (Gedenkschrift in honor of William R. Freudenburg, a life in social research, Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, 21).