secrecy {fragments}

~ musings on secrecy ~

New Book

With Jan Goldman, I edited Intelligence and Information Policy for National Security Key Terms and Concepts (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). The front cover is a photo of President Harry S. Truman and members of the National Security Council on August 19, 1948.



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

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