secrecy {fragments}

~ musings on secrecy ~

Archive for the ‘secrecy studies’ Category

Issue 2

Secrecy and Society issue #2 is finally published. Among the articles included in the issue is my article on the Psychological Strategy Board.


Written by S.

February 20, 2018 at 10:20 pm

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

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

Weather Mod / Geoengineering Secrecy

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 the section 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.


1. 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.

2.See the  Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, December 10, 1976. Article 1 states “Each State Party to this Convention undertakes not to engage in military or any other hostile use of environmental modification techniques having widespread, long-lasting or severe effects as the means of destruction, damage or injury to any other State Party.”

3. Project Censored’s  Most Comprehensive’ Assessment Yet Warns against Geoengineering Risks, VIN (Validated Independent News).

4. In his address at the Conference on Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and U.S. Strategy (University of Georgia, Athens, GA, April 28, 1997), former Sec. of Defense William D. Cohen’s mentions “eco-terrorism” through manipulation of the climate.

5. Shearer, Christine, Mick West, Ken Caldeira, and Steven J Davis. (2016). Quantifying expert consensus against the existence of a secret, large-scale atmospheric spraying program. Environmental Research Letters, 11 (8). doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084011

Bibliography & Update

Earth’s Future. (2017). Special section on geoengineering. March.

Gertner, J. (2017). Is it O.K. to tinker with the environment to fight climate change? The New York Times, April 18.

Keutsch Research Group, Harvard University. (n.d.). Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx).

Lukacs, G. (2017). Trump presidency “opens door” to planet-hacking geoengineer experiments (and response). The Guardian, March 27.

Pierrehumbert R. T. (2017). The trouble with geoengineers “hacking the planet.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June 23.

Sewell, W. R. (1973). Climate and weather control. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 216(1), 30-41.

Temple, J. (2017). Harvard scientists moving ahead on plans for atmospheric geoengineering experiments. Technology Review, March 24.

Wood, Graeme. (2009).  Re-engineering the earth The Atlantic. July-August.


With the CIA’s CREST now full text, the sky’s limit in terms of archival research. Below are several docs I discovered while browsing in the platform:

1952? ~ Research from Germany of “basic physics research which can be applied to meteorology and weather modification. The experiments were performed in physics laboratories but they could be applied to the natural atmosphere with essentially the same conclusions.”

October 7, 1965 ~ An interesting memo with numerous attachments from CIA’s Chief, Astro-Geophysics Branch, GSD/SI to Chief, General Sciences Division/Si (sorry, didn’t have time to do the research for names during this time period). The memo discusses the importance of the World Weather Watch system, but it is the strongly worded attachment from the Weather Services of the Environmental Science Services Administration that calls for “a vigorous national program to exploit the possibilities of weather modification should now be mounted” that is of relevance to building a history of weather modification. The memo also includes as chart of federal support for weather modification by agency 1959-1967 from the Federal Council for Science and Technology.

August 1, 1972 ~ Memo titled “International Aspects of Weather Modification” written by the NSC Under Secretaries Committee (USC) to several the Director CIA, Chairman, Joint Chiefs, and other national security figures. The memo outlines the USC’s responsibility in the “field of weather modification: continuing review of the international aspects of weather modification generally and of U.S. activities affecting other countries or outside U.S. territory;  instituting and overseeing implementation of appropriate guidelines for such U.S. activities; and reviewing any requests from other countries for assistance in weather modification activity.” The memo also discusses Nixon NSDM 165 “International Aspects of Weather Modification” (May 1972).


Written by S.

June 13, 2015 at 1:51 am

The EDS and CO

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!

Written by S.

April 16, 2015 at 4:04 pm