secrecy {fragments}

~ musings on secrecy ~

Archive for the ‘history’ Category

CFP / Secrecy and Society

Call for Papers for volume 1, issue 2 of Secrecy and Society on the subject of secrecy and authoritarianism.

This call for papers is a response to resurgent political trends, especially in the wake of recent world events and social movements. In Issue 2 of Secrecy and Society, we address the subject of secrecy and authoritarianism, including how ideology and popular beliefs are constituted through knowledge claims such as “alternative facts,” disinformation, disingenuous rhetoric, “populist conspiracy theory,” “post-truth,” and propaganda.

We welcome papers that also propose novel theories and methods that conceptualize these subjects. The inspiration for this special section is Richard Hofstadter’s paranoid style in politics, history as conspiracy, and ideas on anti-intellectualism. We encourage scholars, including doctoral students, from around the globe to submit their work.

In addition to papers on the theme of secrecy and authoritarianism, submissions that address any aspect of secrecy and society will be considered.

CFP is here.


Written by S.

February 25, 2017 at 1:07 am


As I delve more fully into the history of the Psychological Strategy Board through the CIA’s CREST system, I’m amazed at the richness of historical documents and especially how they provide a snapshot of post-WWII ideology. One document in particular titled Preliminary Staff Meeting National Psychological Strategy Board (NPSB) is a record of a May 8, 1951 meeting with “General W. B. Smith, General Magruder, Admiral Stevens, Assistant Secretary Barrett, Mr. Allan Dulles, Mr. Frank Wisner, Mr. Philip Davidson, Mr. Max Millikan, and Mr. H. A. Winston, Recorder.” Among the topics discussed at the meeting was the purpose and mission of the new Psychological Board, covert and overt psychological warfare, NSC 10/2, the VOA (Voice of America), World Bank loans and the State Department.

Around page 3 (count when scrolling as there aren’t assigned page numbers), Allen Dulles asks General Walter B. Smith to recount the “lie detector story he told yesterday,”

General Smith: We had a man who refused to take the lie detector test. They told him that his chief took it, Smith took it, Dulles took it, and that he ought to take it. Still he objected. Finally he said, ‘Well, if you force me to, I’ll tell you why I don’t want to take it.’

Fast forward, the gist of Smith’s story is the “man” didn’t want to be subjected to a polygraph as he had cheated on his wife during the war and might be asked about being faithful. What follows is a revealing statement from Gen. Smith regarding sex, loyalty, and security that ends with a question:

In these cases I have only one question: that we get these name checks. You would be surprised at the number of elderly gentlemen who come to work for the Government and whose lady visitors slip away from the house early in the morning. The only question is, are there any homosexuals involved? (p.4)

The minutes reflect no response to Gen. Smith’s question, but instead shift to the business of locating a (pro forma) director of the fledgling PSB:

Assume: First, the director is a front. You can get planning and operations in the absence of a director. (p.5)


Ah, to be a fly on the wall.

Written by S.

February 20, 2017 at 8:40 pm

Japanese-American Internment

Today is the somber anniversary of Executive Order 9066  (February 19, 1942) that led to the institutionalized, forced roundup (“mass migration” as mentioned in the film below) and detention of Japanese-American citizens. Marking the 75th anniversary, Russ Kick @ Memory Hole 2 created an accessible list from NARA records of the approximately 104,000 individuals sent to internment camps.



In honor of these individuals, I post a work begun in library school during the reparations and redress movement titled The Desert Years: An Annotated Bibliography of Japanese-American lnternment in Arizona and the United States during World War ll. The foreword is written by my mother-in-law Monica Itoi Sone, whose name appears on the roster with her siblings, parents, and future husband.

The Desert Years is mentioned in an online exhibition on internment camps in Arizona, but this is the first time the bibliography appears in digital format. I scanned two versions of the bibliography from a tightly bound issue and hope it serves as a memory tool.

The Desert Years (color scan) | The Desert Years (black/white scan)

Written by S.

February 20, 2017 at 12:08 am

Approximate History: The PSB and Black Projects

For the past several years, one of my side research projects has been rummaging through the deep archive to discover the role of the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) in black projects such as BLUEBIRD, ARTICHOKE, perhaps even MKULTRA. Generally speaking, these projects involved research and development into “brainwashing,” interrogation and assassination techniques, propaganda and “messaging,” drug testing on a variety of animals and people (especially LSD 25 & 41), as well as exploration of novel plants and technologies to affect sleep, behavior, and mood. In part, I credit Christopher Simpson’s research on the PSB in his Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960 for piquing my interest.

Per Truman Directive 128, the PSB was established in June, 1951

for the formulation and promulgation, as guidance to the departments and agencies responsible for psychological operations, of over-all national psychological objectives, policies and programs, and for the coordination and evaluation of the national psychological effort.

PSB membership included the “Undersecretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Director of Central Intelligence, or, in their absence, their appropriate designees, and “an appropriate representative of the head of each such other department or agency of the Government as may, from time to time, be determined by the Board.” The PSB was abolished in September, 1953 and its activities transferred to the Eisenhower administration’s Operations Coordinating Board by way of Executive Order 10483.

PSB’s records – many still classified – are split between the Truman and Eisenhower presidential libraries, but also appear in spades within the CIA’s CREST collection; I’ve submitted Mandatory Declassification Reviews,  (one successful for the release of the PSB’s Biographic Register for the years 1952-53), filed appeals, become cozy with the collections at Truman and Eisenhower, traveled to NARA to use the CIA’s CREST collection, then used FOIA to obtain docs that weren’t full text .pdf in the online version. This week, all changed. The CIA made the Web version of CREST completely full text. No more FOIA to CIA or making a pilgrimage to NARA.

For an upcoming article to be published later this year, I’ll establish the PSB had knowledge of these black projects through its founding mission as it oversaw the “national psychological effort.” Three DCIs served on the Board, so their records, memos, and internal directives are essential in constructing the history of the PSB. At this critical point in the research process, access is everything. As I sift through and cross check the Black Vault MKULTRA collection (records obtained by John Marks and donated to the National Security Archive after his FOIA battle and completion of the groundbreaking 1979 The Search for the “Manchurian Candidate”: The CIA and Mind Control) and comparing documents with the CREST collection, certain patterns are already appearing. Some documents are indeed duplicates between the two collections, but many are not.

In 1977, CIA located 18 cartons of documents on Bluebird and Artichoke. At the time, CIA determined the “newly discovered materials failed to reveal any information which would contradict or change that information previously furnished to investigating bodies.”*  While this may be good news for researchers like me who hope to reconstruct the history of the PSB, CIA, and clandestine projects,** it doesn’t imply the full story is told. New associations can now be made with this open access, ones that reclaim history and voice.


* The “investigating bodies” CIA refers to are the

  • Rockefeller Commission (June 1975)
  • Kennedy Commission hearings (Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, Subcommittee on Health), September 10, 12, and November 7, 1975 (and its report, Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Human-Use Experimentation Programs of the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency
  • The mothership of all hearings, the 1976 Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, commonly referred to as the Church hearings.
  • Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (1977), Project MKULTRA, the CIA’s Program of Research in Behavioral Modification

** It was revealed during the Kennedy hearings (Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, Subcommittee on Health 1975, 280) that former CIA DCI Richard M. Helms ordered project files destroyed.

Written by S.

January 18, 2017 at 7:18 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 titled 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 defoliant 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, amounts, and toxicity:

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, one of the defoliants sprayed in the area (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 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 and perhaps is an orphan work. If Shoecraft family members have objections to posting 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.


Several stories on other communities disrupted by the institutionalized spraying of herbicides:

See Nigel Duara‘s article titled  On an Apache reservation in Arizona, a toxic legacy and a mysterious history of chemical sprayingLos Angeles Times, January 19, 2017.  Silvex was sprayed from 1961 to 1972 over the San Carlos Apache Reservation 90 miles northeast of Phoenix – and adjacent to Globe.

Sheryl Lerner, 100,000 Pages of Chemical Industry Secrets Gathered Dust in an Oregon Barn for Decades — Until Now, The Intercept, July 26, 2017. The Poison Papers is comprised of approximately 200,000 pages of documents “obtained through legal discovery in lawsuits against Dow, Monsanto, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the Air Force, and pulp and paper companies, among others.” The core of the papers are donated by  Carol Van Strum, who discovered that between 1972 and 1977, the U.S. Forest Service sprayed “20,000 pounds of 2,4,5-T in the 1,600-square-mile area that included Van Strum’s house and the nearby town of Alsea.”

Written by S.

August 17, 2015 at 12:02 am