from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 39
April 11, 2007

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More than 160 U.S. and foreign military aircraft are catalogued in a U.S. Army manual which describes their distinctive physical characteristics in order to permit visual identification of the aircraft in flight.

The manual is nominally a restricted document, marked "for official use only," and it has not been approved for public release. But a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

Proper identification of aircraft is obviously a matter of military significance.

Incorrectly identifying a friendly aircraft (such as an F-15 Eagle) as an enemy aircraft (such as a MiG-29 Fulcrum) in wartime "could cause fratricide," meaning the destruction of friendly aircraft, the manual states.

Conversely, incorrectly identifying an enemy aircraft (a Su-24 Fencer) as a friendly one (such as a Tornado) "might allow a hostile aircraft entry into, or safe passage through, the defended area."

On the other hand, mistaking one type of hostile aircraft (a Su-17 Fitter) for another type of hostile aircraft (a MiG-21 Fishbed) would generally have "no impact" -- except "if friendly countries were flying some aircraft types that are normally considered hostile."

Likewise, mistaking one type of friendly aircraft (an F-4 Phantom) for another (an A-4 Skyhawk) would normally not be a great problem unless "a hostile country was using an aircraft type that is normally considered friendly."

The manual covers both well-known and relatively obscure systems, but does not include classified aircraft.

Although an earlier edition of the manual was published without access restrictions, the current edition (2006) was not approved for public release.

But as the government imposes publication restrictions on an ever larger set of records, the control system seems to be breaking down at the margins, permitting unauthorized access with increasing frequency.

In this case, contrary to the restriction notice on the title page, the document does not reveal sensitive "technical or operational information."

See "Visual Aircraft Recognition," U.S. Army Field Manual FM 3-01.80, January 2006 (413 pages in a very large 28 MB PDF file):


The Central Intelligence Agency has released three of its internal personnel regulations in redacted form as part of a defense against charges that it improperly dismissed a former undercover contract employee.

A 2002 regulation signed by then-DCI George Tenet established the CIA Personnel Evaluation Board, which is "the primary mechanism for reviewing employee suitability and security cases that may result in the imposition of serious discipline, termination of employment, or revocation of security clearances."

The "circumstances under which Agency employment may be terminated" are described in another 2002 regulation.

The role of "contract employees" -- which are not the same as "contractors" -- is described in a third redacted CIA regulation.

The regulations were disclosed by CIA in response to a lawsuit filed by "Peter B.," a covert contract employee who alleged that he was wrongly terminated and was subjected to unlawful retaliation by the CIA.

The CIA replied that the CIA Director "has discretion to terminate a person employed by the CIA for any reason and the decision is not subject to review."

The newly disclosed CIA personnel regulations were characterized in a declaration by CIA information review officer Linda Dove.


Almost every day brings forceful reminders of the transience of all human endeavors, challenging us to consider our own mortality and to act with compassion, if we can.

Paul Leventhal, a tireless advocate for the cause of nuclear non-proliferation, died this week of cancer. As president of the public interest Nuclear Control Institute, he was a relentless critic of nuclear policy, a font of new ideas, and a mentor to a generation of younger activists. He is remembered here:

John William Leonard, who also died this week at age 30, was the son of Bill Leonard, the respected director of the Information Security Oversight Office. "He was more than a good son, he was a good man," said an obituary notice in the Washington Post today (4/11/07, page B8). The notice stated that charitable contributions may be made to the John William Leonard Memorial Fund, c/o Bank of America, 28250 Three Notch Road, Mechanicsville, MD 20659.


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

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