What The CIA Is (Trying To) Hide

As described here previously, the “family jewels” documents released by the Central Intelligence Agency are full – full – of redactions. On very nearly every page, at least a little information has been withheld by the Agency for reasons, well, unknowable to we mere mortals. Even if their logic escapes you and I, we can still infer at least a little bit of what they’re withholding.

Though not from the “family jewels” release, the following letterhead memo is from roughly the same time period, and contains a lot of the same markings that would be found on the “family jewels” papers. It’s reproduced here from images found elsewhere on the CIA’s FOIA website, and while the substance of the memo isn’t very interesting, it was reviewed and redacted twice, with very different results.

Look familiar? All kinds of redactions, all over the page. What important things are under that black marker? What didn’t the Central Intelligence Agency want you to see? Well, the answer is less than breathtaking:

Same memo – in fact, the same copy of the memo, just reviewed by someone a little less overzealous. That stuff the CIA didn’t want released? Starting from the top, there’s the “Confidential” marking, whose existence can be inferred from the still-legible one at the bottom. Then there are two people’s signatures that I can’t make out, and Mr. Eugene C. Peterson’s name. The words “from this office” are redacted from the original; the following two or three words get redacted in both copies, with the latter noting the (b)(3) exemption.

The author’s name and signature gets redacted in both; the Agency claims (b)(3) for both on the latter copy, which is understandable (redacting one or the other is not.) Below the author’s name on the latter can be seen a document serial, in this case 105-2175-1. (see note below)

(For documents released in response to the FOIA, which these documents were, exemption markings should appear like this everywhere a redaction was made.)

Below these markings, the highlighter-wielding employee who reviewed the first copy struck through another couple of scrawled signatures, then redacted some control markings – on the left, “Warning Notice – Sensitive Intelligence Sources and Methods Involved”, and on the right, the boilerplate classification authority marking. Below all that, the “confidential” marking and what I believe to be the file number, both blacked-out originally, escaped redaction the second time around.

Why am I covering this? Because these same markings, or ones very like them, almost certainly appear on many of the original “family jewels” papers, and a lot of the redactions are covering up these sorts of things. Indeed, you can make an educated guess as to what sorts of markings are being obscured just by the location, size, and shape of a redaction. Nifty, no?

An interesting note about this document: It’s from the Deputy Director of Operations of the CIA, to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (and Eugene Peterson, of what I assume is the CIA’s Intelligence Division), and both copies are found on the CIA website. However, it’s reproduced from a copy received by the FBI, and the numbers on the document follow the format of, and would make logical sense in, the FBI‘s filing system. 105-2175-1 would be the first document in file 2175, under classification 105 – nominally “Foreign Counterintelligence”, but often a catchall for “security matters”, which included a lot of COINTELPRO stuff – and, yes, files on Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

One marking you’ll occasionally come across on released government documents, including some of the “family jewels” records, is [text surrounded by hand-drawn brackets] like below:

Brackets are pencilled in around text or markings a document reviewer believes may be exempt from disclosure, or otherwise redactable. Such markings are often worth keeping an eye out for, because they generally surround content that someone, somewhere, thought should (or could) be withheld, but in the end wasn’t. In this instance, someone thought the “MH” preface to “MHCHAOS” was, perhaps, classified; likewise the routing details of cable and dispatch traffic related to the program.

Here’s an example of a “Memorandum for the Record” from the Family Jewels:

Using everything laid out before, we can see that a whole bunch of stuff was redacted from this memo, and there are no signs anywhere of FOIA exemption codes. However, we can also see that some material deemed sensitive – in brackets – was not redacted. Too, we know the odds are very, very good that the two large redactions on the bottom are a “classified by” notice and a boilerplate warning of some sort.

Well, that’s about it for me on this; no earth-shattering, sun-stopping revealations, but hopefully you found this interesting, and maybe learned a thing or two you didn’t know…

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on June 28th, 2007| 1 Comment »

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One Comment

  1. On 1/11/2010 at 7:49 pm mohsen rostambakhsh Said:

    i need to you help ….im american artist in tehran-iran .my name in iranian passport is mohsen rostambakhsh .to you as john david ..

    i want send my art work to your company .for exhibition gallery ..

    i wish watch my art work by your eyes ..also i have include my portariate ..and one pic of my conceptual art which bbc world projected it in 2000-2001..

    please let me send my cd to you ..and please dont send it back .which i give to you ..

    and my contact have to go change ..a lot of my art work are in site 2

    http://community.webshots.com/user/M_ROSTAMBAKHSH

    http://s736.photobucket.com/albums/xx5/m_rostambakhsh/

    and story is in this http://7p7.blogspot.com/
    I HAVE INCLUDE A PART OF MY ART WORK AND MY PROPOSAL FOR EXHIBITION IS ONE COCEPTUAL ART (WHENCE )
    WHICH I HAVE INCLUDE A STORY OF IT ,AND BBC WORLD PROJECTED IT IN 2001 ..ALTHOUGHT THIS PROJECT IS NOT SAME WITH
    LAST ..I HOPE YOU CAN ACCEPTE IT ,AS YOU SEE INSTALL IT ..IS FANTASTIC AND IS NOT HARD AND DONT NEED TO BIG SPACE ..
    ONLY ONE CHAIR IS ENOGHT ..AND THAT STORY IS

    skeleton

    once upon a time,without knowing why and how ,a creature found himself existing.as he was walking along,he got tired and decided to die .
    once he was told :you are immortal but there is one way and only one way for you to pass a way by changing to a nine months and nine days old infant!!
    he was not to lerant enough to wait for nine months and nine days so he decided to start watching art history pictures!!
    and now that we are at the time of death of creature ,he seems to be a skeleton ,sitting on a chair ,being injected marcel duchamps blood to his bones and
    watching pictures of history of art .