from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 15
February 26, 2002


The Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence, which was established last year to conduct information operations abroad in support of the U.S. military, will be significantly curtailed in scope or may be shut down altogether due to controversy over the role of disinformation in the Office's activities.

President Bush, asked whether he had instructed Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to eliminate the new Office, said yesterday: "I told Secretary Rumsfeld -- I didn't even need to tell him this; he knows how I feel, I saw it reflected in his comments the other day -- that we'll tell the American people the truth."

The President's comment was understood to portend severe constraints on the Pentagon initiative, or even its elimination. See "Bush Seals Fate of Office of Influence in Pentagon" by Eric Schmitt in the February 26 New York Times:

While this turn of events demonstrates the power of public controversy to shape official behavior, it also illustrates the difficulty of publicly addressing delicate policy matters in an intelligent and non-dogmatic way. U.S. Government policy on information operations remains poorly defined and is unlikely to be revisited in public any time soon.


Last October, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) contracted with Space Imaging, Inc., to purchase high-resolution commercial satellite imagery of Afghanistan acquired by Space Imaging's Ikonos satellite. Under the terms of the contract, NIMA obtained exclusive access to the Ikonos imagery, prompting criticism that the government was engaging in a form of censorship.

That contract has now expired, and the withheld imagery is being made available for purchase to all interested customers, as noted by the Associated Press in a February 22 story:

One Ikonos image of Afghanistan, an October 10 shot of the Kandahar airfield following a U.S. strike, was posted by Space Imaging here:

Another collection of Ikonos imagery, including a January 24, 2002 shot of Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and a 2000 image of the Secret Service Training Facility in Maryland, may be found here: features a notable collection of high-resolution satellite imagery in its Public Eye "Picture of the Week" series here:


Soviet intelligence operations in Afghanistan between 1978 and 1983 are portrayed in a manuscript authored by defector Vasiliy Mitrokhin and published this week by the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center.

Mitrokhin is best known as co-author (with Christopher Andrew) of "The Sword and the Shield," a 1999 history of the KGB based on case file notes that he compiled as a KGB archivist and smuggled to the West.

Mitrokhin's publications are intrinsically problematic since they cannot be compared with the source materials on which they are based. If his notes contained errors of transcription or interpretation, there would be no way to identify them. Nevertheless, his work has served to shed new light and to raise new questions about a number of historic KGB operations.

A press release announcing publication of Mitrokhin's "The KGB in Afghanistan" is posted here:

The Afghanistan paper itself, in Russian and English versions, may be found on the web site of the Cold War International History Project here:


"Weapons-grade and weapons-usable nuclear materials have been stolen from some Russian institutes," according to a CIA report to Congress on Russian nuclear security published last week.

"We assess that undetected smuggling has occurred, although we do not know the extent or magnitude of such thefts," the report also found.

Even though the security of Russian nuclear facilities is a sensitive and important subject, the new CIA report was published in unclassified form, apparently because it is based on open sources.

A copy of the February 2002 "Annual Report to Congress on the Safety and Security of Russian Nuclear Facilities and Military Forces" is posted here:


White House press secretary Ari Fleischer was questioned yesterday about the propriety of appointing of Adm. John Poindexter to head the Information Awareness Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The former Reagan Administration National Security Adviser is best known for his dishonest and illegal efforts to cover up the Iran-Contra scandal.

"Poindexter along with [Oliver] North and others in November 1986 attempted to shred and alter the paper trail reflecting their Iran/contra activities," wrote Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh in his 1993 report on the Iran-Contra affair.

So how is it that the Bush Administration chose Poindexter of all people to head the DARPA office?

"Admiral Poindexter is somebody who this administration thinks is an outstanding American...," said Mr. Fleischer, who declined to acknowledge any past misdeeds by the former Reagan official. "The President thinks that Admiral Poindexter has served our nation very well." See:

Fleischer's comments were aptly dissected by Timothy Noah in Slate Magazine today.

"If Poindexter's rehabilitation is allowed to slip through unremarked, it will only be a matter of time before Oliver North is appointed ambassador to Nicaragua," Noah concluded. See:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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