from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 63
June 20, 2007

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Each U.S. military service now has "combat camera" (COMCAM) units that provide a unique visual record of military operations, according to a new manual on COMCAM tactics and procedures.

The photographic and motion imagery produced by military photographers "enhances the commander's situational awareness and establishes a historical operations record."

If and when such imagery is eventually released, it has the potential to add a new dimension to public understanding of military operations and to supplement external oversight.

"COMCAM forces perform unique and highly specialized missions ... supporting the full range of military operations in all operational environments. COMCAM personnel maintain qualifications enabling them to operate with airborne forces, special operations forces, and military divers."

"In an increasingly media-driven world and global information environment, the ability to exploit VIDOC [visual information documentation] has enabled the warfighter to gain a battlespace advantage."

"COMCAM forces provide commanders with visual information (VI) that directly supports their decision making and operational assessment. During recent operations, daily imagery usage included: battle briefings, targeting, operational assessment, force protection, battlespace orientation, airfield qualification, public affairs, operational awareness, information operations, psychological operations, and battle damage assessment."

Much or most of the COMCAM imagery product is classified. Even the unclassified imagery cannot be publicly disclosed without prior review and approval.

But over the long term, "Comprehensive visual information documentation ensures an accurate historical record of military operations," according to the new manual, which was issued jointly by the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

See "COMCAM - Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Combat Camera Operations," U.S. Army Field Manual 3-55.12, May 2007:


Military doctrine for the planning and execution of U.S. counterdrug operations, including detection, monitoring, disruption and interdiction of illegal drug trafficking, is presented in a new publication from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

See "Joint Counterdrug Operations," Joint Publication JP 3-07.4, 13 June 2007:

The "capstone" publication for all joint military doctrine was also recently updated and reissued.

See Joint Publication JP 1, "Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States," 14 May 2007:


Noteworthy new reports of the Congressional Research Service on national security, foreign policy and other topics include the following.

"Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy," updated June 8, 2007:

"Navy Role in Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) -- Background and Issues for Congress," updated April 16, 2007:

"Turkey's 2007 Elections: Crisis of Identity and Power," June 12, 2007:

"The Quasi Government: Hybrid Organizations with Both Government and Private Sector Legal Characteristics," updated February 13, 2007:


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

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