from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 59
June 7, 2007

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The National Reconnaissance Office, the U.S. intelligence agency that builds and operates spy satellites, has released a redacted version of its declassification guide for review of historical records that also provides a unique overview of the agency.

Although the primary purpose of the document is to assist official reviewers in the declassification process, it also serves as an authoritative compendium of declassified data regarding the NRO, which was established in 1961 and publicly acknowledged in 1992.

From organizational history to satellite programs to agency products and capabilities, the declassification guide itemizes the various "facts" in each category that are now declassified.

Valuable appendices identify key individual participants in the National Reconnaissance Program and provide a glossary of code words. Excerpting at random:

"The term 'Area 58' [may be released] when limited to the context of a very general association with the NRO, intelligence activities, imagery intelligence, or satellite reconnaissance but not revealing any geographic location information."

"EVEN STEVEN" is "the code word associated with 29 U-2 flights in 1970 that overflew the Suez Canal ceasefire zone between Israel and Egypt."

"ECI" stands for "Exceptionally Controlled Information," which is "an NSA administrative COMINT flag."

The document was declassified and released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from researcher Michael Ravnitzky, who kindly provided a copy to Secrecy News.

See "National Reconnaissance Office Review and Redaction Guide for Automatic Declassification of 25-Year-Old Information," 2006 edition (165 pages, 6.5 MB PDF file):


The industrial base of contractors in industry seeking to do business with the National Security Agency has mushroomed in recent years, according to an NSA acquisition official.

In 2001, only 140 contractors were eligible to compete for NSA contracts. Today, there are six thousand such contractors, said Deborah Walker of the NSA. She spoke at a contractor conference sponsored by the Defense Intelligence Agency last month.

The number of contractor facilities cleared by the NSA has grown from 41 in 2002 to 1265 in 2006, according to a chart that she presented in her talk.

The result is an increase in competitiveness and improved communication with industry, Ms. Walker indicated. "Partnerships with industry [are] vital to mission success," she said.

See "Acquisition Resource Center," presentation by Deborah Walker, National Security Agency, May 2007, Unclassified/FOUO:

Contractors now consume as much as 70% of U.S. intelligence spending, reported Tim Shorrock in Salon last week.


The constitutionality of the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program was examined from various points of view at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee today.

"The President had ample authority to authorize the Terrorist Surveillance Program under acts of Congress and the Constitution," said Steven Bradbury of the Justice Department.

It's not so simple, said Louis Fisher of the Law Library of Congress in an extended analysis. "Federal courts have rejected the theory that the President has 'inherent' constitutional authority to engage in warrantless domestic surveillance."

The President's program is clearly illegal, argued conservative critic Bruce Fein. "If Congress leaves the Bush administrationís illegal spying programs unrebuked, a precedent will have been established that will lie around like a loaded weapon ready for permanent use throughout the endless conflict with international terrorism," he said.

See the prepared testimony from the June 7 hearing on "Constitutional Limitations on Domestic Surveillance" here:


The convoluted procedures by which the U.S. government purchases weapons and other military systems are rendered almost intelligible in a new report of the Congressional Research Service.

The report introduces the defense acquisition structure, summarizes several recent analyses of that structure, and points towards some unfinished business.

"The unparalleled complexity of DOD's defense acquisition structure lends itself to the continued emergence of many problematic issues," the CRS report said.

"Simply put," the House Armed Services Committee said last year, "the Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition process is broken... The rising costs and lengthening schedules of major defense acquisition programs lead to more expensive platforms fielded in fewer numbers."

A copy of the new CRS report was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "Defense Acquisition: Overview, Issues, and Options for Congress," June 4, 2007:


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

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