Posts from April, 2007

Clandestine Services History: The Berlin Tunnel

The Central Intelligence Agency has released a newly declassified version of its closely-held internal history of the Berlin Tunnel Operation (pdf), which was an effort in the mid-1950s to tap into Soviet communications through a tunnel constructed in the Soviet sector of Berlin. The operation was famously compromised by a Soviet mole in British intelligence before it even began.

The official CIA history of the operation was prepared in 1968 and published — in two copies. A declassified version was finally approved for release in February 2007.

See “Clandestine Services History: The Berlin Tunnel Operation, 1952-1956,” 24 June 1968.

CIA internal histories are a largely untapped resource since the Agency has been slow to declassify and release them.

A previously published CIA account of the Berlin Tunnel operation, which includes links to limited excerpts from other internal histories of the episode, is here.

A clandestine services history of the 1953 coup in Iran was leaked to the New York Times in 2000, after the CIA refused to declassify it. The document is available from the National Security Archive.

Former CIA Polygrapher Files Lawsuit Against Agency

A former polygrapher for the Central Intelligence Agency has filed a lawsuit (pdf) alleging that the Agency unlawfully retaliated against him for publishing a critical account of CIA polygraph programs.

John Sullivan, author of the forthcoming book “Gatekeeper: Memoirs of a CIA Polygraph Examiner,” argued that his security clearance was improperly revoked in the course of a lengthy pre-publication review dispute, though it was ultimately restored.

“The CIA’s treatment of John Sullivan, a former employee who dared speak out, is indicative of a pattern and practice by the CIA of unlawful and disgraceful retaliation through the abuse of the security clearance process,” said Mark S. Zaid, the attorney who is representing Mr. Sullivan.

The allegations were described in an April 5 press release.

The CIA response to the lawsuit will be posted when it is filed.

IG Report on DoD Intel Office Declassified

At the request of Sen. Carl Levin, the Department of Defense has declassified most of its February 2007 Inspector General report (large pdf) on the pre-Iraq war activities of the DoD Office of Special Plans, led by Douglas Feith.

“It is important for the public to see why the Pentagon’s Inspector General concluded that Secretary Feith’s office ‘developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al-Qaeda relationship,’ which included ‘conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community,’ and why the Inspector General concluded that these actions were ‘inappropriate’,” Sen. Levin said.

“Until today, those details were classified and outside the public’s view.”

See this news release from Sen. Levin, with a link to the newly declassified report.

Mr. Feith’s Office issued a January 2007 rebuttal (pdf) to a draft version of the IG report.

Various Resources

“Congressional Access to Classified National Security Information” is the subject of a report prepared by Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies on the occasion of a March 30 forum on the subject sponsored by OpenTheGovernment.org and the Center for American Progress.

Government attorneys defended (pdf) their contention that some evidence to be presented to the jury in the upcoming trial of two former AIPAC officials should be withheld from the public, a position criticized by the defense as prejudicial and unconstitutional. See the government brief (first reported April 5 by the New York Sun) here.

Having declassified some eight million pages of historical records relating to Nazi and Japanese Imperial Army war crimes, the largest single-subject declassification program has now come to a close, the National Archives noted in an April 2 news release.

As a public service, the National Archives posts a new daily document of historical interest each day on its web site. Not all of them will be of interest to everyone, but the series as a whole has the potential to serve as an educational stimulus for students and citizens. Today’s (April 5) document is a 1940 photograph of “Leon Trotsky and American admirers.”

CIA Blocks Book on Chinese Nuclear Weapons

An eagerly awaited book on the history of the Chinese nuclear weapons program will not be published due to objections from the Central Intelligence Agency, which said it contains classified information.

A federal court last week ruled (pdf) that the CIA was within its rights to block disclosure of 23 sections of a manuscript by former Los Alamos intelligence specialist Danny B. Stillman, who had brought a lawsuit asserting his First Amendment right to publish the volume.

During the 1990s, Mr. Stillman traveled to China nine times, including six trips that took place after his retirement in 1993. He visited nuclear weapons facilities and “engaged in extensive discussions with Chinese scientists, government officials, and nuclear weapons designers,” resulting in a 506-page manuscript entitled “Inside China’s Nuclear Weapons Program.”

Since he was a Los Alamos employee prior to retirement, and maintained a security clearance thereafter, he submitted his manuscript to the government for pre-publication review, as required by the non-disclosure agreements that he had signed.

His book was written for publication and did not include classified information, in the author’s judgment.

Significantly, the Department of Energy, which has principal classification authority over nuclear weapons design data, concurred. After initial resistance, DOE gave its approval for publication of the entire volume.

But the Central Intelligence Agency, DIA and DoD were opposed.

In a March 30 ruling, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the DC District Court wrote that the non-disclosure agreements signed by Mr. Stillman contain “incredibly broad language” with regard to protection of classified information.

And upon review, the Court said it was persuaded that “the government has properly classified the twenty-three passages in Stillman’s manuscript.”

Since those passages constitute about 15% of the total manuscript and include some of the most interesting and valuable information that he gathered in his travels to China, the author said he would not publish the remainder.

A Survey of Geospatial Data on Haiti

A study (pdf) performed recently for the U.S. Department of Agriculture documented the search for geospatial information — satellite imagery, maps, aerial photography and other records — on Haiti.

In so doing, the authors provided a template and a guide to accessing the wealth of worldwide geospatial data that is now in the public domain. Detailed information on products and sources is given.

See “Geospatial Data Availability for Haiti: An Aid in the Development of GIS-Based Natural Resource Assessments for Conservation Planning” by Maya Quiñones, William Gould, and Carlos D. Rodríguez-Pedraza, U.S. Department of Agriculture, February 2007.

A JASON Study on Los Alamos’ DAHRT

The Dual Axis Radiographic Hydro-Test facility (DARHT) at Los Alamos Laboratory was the subject of a technical assessment from the mysterious JASON defense science advisory panel.

A copy of the October 2006 study, simply entitled “DAHRT,” is here (pdf).

It was first reported on April 1 in the Albuquerque Journal by John Fleck, who also blogs here.

Declarations of War, and More from CRS

Some recently updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following (all pdf).

“Declarations of War and Authorizations for the Use of Military Force: Historical Background and Legal Implications,” updated March 8, 2007.

“The Iran Sanctions Act (ISA),” updated January 25, 2007.

“Homeland Security: Compendium of Recommendations Relevant to House Committee Organization and Analysis of Considerations for the House, and 109th and 110th Congresses Epilogue,” updated March 2, 2007.

“Cuba: U.S. Restrictions on Travel and Remittances,” updated February 27, 2007.

“Kosovo and U.S. Policy,” updated February 27, 2007.

“Industrial Competitiveness and Technological Advancement: Debate Over Government Policy,” updated March 19, 2007.

In Memoriam: Gary Sellers

Gary Sellers, who was an attorney, a cherry farmer, a former congressional aide, husband, father and many other things, died last month in a car accident.

“He was very interested in openness in government,” his wife Sally Determan said, and so the family asked fellow mourners to give donations to the FAS Project on Government Secrecy in lieu of flowers.

One of the first “Nader’s Raiders” who supported Ralph Nader’s consumer advocacy campaigns in the late 1960s, Sellers pleaded with Nader unsuccessfully in 2000 not to campaign against Al Gore in battleground states, the Washington Post noted in a March 24 obituary.

As a congressional staffer and attorney, he was instrumental in the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and in the development of miner safety laws.

“Millions of American workers who will never know his name are safer today because of Gary Sellers,” said one colleague.

A crowded March 30 memorial service for Mr. Sellers at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington contained much more laughter than might have been expected, but not any fewer tears.

Mr. Sellers was known to be generous to friends and strangers.

“At the end of the season, he always gave away what was left of his [cherry] crop,” the Rappahannock News reported on March 14.

Now his family and friends are expressing their own generosity with donations to the FAS Project on Government Secrecy to help promote open government in his memory. And that’s what we’re going to do.