Over 900 Kissinger Telcons Released thanks to Archive FOIA Suit; the NSA’s “Highly Productive” Relationship with AT&T, and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 8/20/2015
905 Henry Kissinger telcons that were recently released thanks to an Archive FOIA lawsuit contain the highest-level verbatim conversations between Kissinger and a wide range of officials and journalists about the evacuation of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War, the crisis in Cyprus, Middle East negotiations, revelations of CIA misdeeds, Ronald Reagan’s challenge to Ford in the 1976 primaries, and other topics. On CIA Director William Colby’s cooperation with Congressional investigations into the CIA, Kissinger commented, “You accuse him of a traffic violation, and he confesses murder.” The Colby telcon is of particular interest; the version released to the Archive this August is heavily redacted, even though it was released in full for the Foreign Relations of the United States historical series eight years ago in 2007. Archive Director Tom Blanton told Politico that the withholding of information the government has already made available is “the very definition of arbitrary and capricious.”
As with previous releases of Kissinger’s telcons, this latest trove contains Kissinger’s candid remarks that were never meant for public view about personalities ranging from Defense Secretary and Cabinet rival James Schlesinger to New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh, who was beginning to publish ground-breaking revelations about past CIA abuses. Telcons published in this week’s release include:
- reactions to Seymour Hersh’s New York Times story in December 1974 revealing information about the CIA “Family Jewels,”
- President Ford’s reaction to the attempted assassination by Manson family associate “Squeaky” Fromme in September 1975, and
- Kissinger’s doubt about reports that Israel had readied nuclear weapons during the 1973 war, suggesting that spreading such disinformation was the action of a “sick” government.
The National Security Agency’s (NSA) relationship with AT&T has been a unique and “highly productive” partnership, this according to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to the New York Times and ProPublica. The documents date from 2003 through 2013 and detail how the telecommunications giant provided the spy agency with access “to billions of emails as they have flowed across its domestic networks. It provided technical assistance in carrying out a secret court order permitting the wiretapping of all Internet communications at the United Nations headquarters, a customer of AT&T.” Thanks in part to AT&T’s “extreme willingness to help,” NSA reminded its officials to be polite when visiting the companies facilities, saying, “This is a partnership, not a contractual relationship.” The documents do not name AT&T specifically; rather they refer to codenames for corporate partnerships run by the NSA’s Special Source Operations division. The AT&T program codename is Fairview, which began in 1985 and is one of SSO’s oldest.
One leaked internal NSA newsletter importantly notes that AT&T began providing the NSA with over 1.1 billion domestic cellphone records in 2011 after “a push to get this flow operational prior to the 10th anniversary of 9/11.” This is a noteworthy revelation because, as the Times points out, “after Mr. Snowden disclosed the program of collecting the records of Americans’ phone calls, intelligence officials told reporters that, for technical reasons, it consisted mostly of landline phone records.”
An unredacted copy of a 2014 audit by the Postal Services inspector general, won thanks to a FOIA request, reveals new information on the USPS’ surveillance program, called mail covers. The program allows USPS workers to record information found on the outside of envelopes and packages for law enforcement agencies before parcels are delivered. The IG audit found USPS didn’t maintain “sufficient controls” to ensure employees followed protocol for handling the mail covers and inspectors “failed to follow key safeguards in the gathering and handling of classified information.” The audit also revealed that the IRS, FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were the mail covers program most frequent users.
A redacted version of the audit was published on the Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General website in May 2014. Former Congressional Research Service analyst Kevin Kosar, who examined postal issues, said that the USPS inspector general redacted any information about the mail covers program in the first place is “symptomatic of our overclassification of information in the government.” Kosar goes on to note, “There is nothing here that compromises any law enforcement activities. In fact, there is very little information.”
Chelsea Manning, a former military intelligence analyst currently serving a 35-year sentence for leaking over 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks, now risks facing indefinite solitary confinement for, among other infractions, having prohibited reading material. One of the prohibited items is Caitlin Jenner’s Vanity Fair issue discussing the former Olympic athlete’s transition from male to female; Manning was born a man but identifies as a woman and the DOD said last year that it will provide gender identity treatment for her. In addition to the Vanity Fair magazine, Manning’s infractions include “medicine misuse pertaining to expired toothpaste and disorderly conduct for pushing food onto the floor.”
A 2010 Defense Department IG report released under the FOIA shows that the Army’s competition with the Air Force over Predator drones may have cost taxpayers $500 million in wasteful spending. According to reporting by The Intercept, the IG report found that despite a 2008 order that they combine their efforts, both the Army and the Air Force separately spent “$115 million in 2008 and 2009 on research efforts that were supposed to help combine their Predator programs.” Despite the fact that many DOD IG reports are clearly posted on the agency’s website, the DOD’s website instructs the public to request this specific report, marked “official use only,” through the FOIA.
Steven Aftergood reported on Secrecy News this week that the Department of Energy has issued twenty “declassification determinations” over the last four years “to remove certain specified categories of nuclear weapons-related information from classification controls.” This means the specified information, including “The fact that a mass of 52.5 kg of U-235 is sufficient for a gun-assembled weapon,” the “total inventory of thorium at DOE sites for any given time period,” and the “existence of unlimited life neutron generators” no longer need to be redacted during declassification reviews.
The National Security Archive’s Peter Kornbluh helped pen a groundbreaking Mother Jones article revealing key details of the behind-the-scenes political operations and secret negotiations that have led to the normalization of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. Written by Kornbluh and American University Professor William M. LeoGrande and adapted from their book, Back Channel To Cuba: the Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana, the article reveals that, among other things, two of Hillary Clinton’s top aides conducted a two-year secret dialogue with Cuban Foreign Ministry officials focused on exchanging imprisoned US citizen Alan Gross for the “Cuban Five” spies who were serving lengthy jail sentences in the United States, and that the secret talks between White House officials and Cuban negotiators close to Raul Castro came to an impasse in June 2014 over the administration’s demand that, in addition to Gross, Cuba release a CIA asset who had passed intelligence to the US in the 1990s that led to the arrest of the Cuban Five spy network.
This week’s #tbt pick is chosen with Kissinger’s reaction to Sy Hersh’s reporting in mind, and is the CIA’s full “family jewels” report. Released by the CIA to the Archive in response to a FOIA, it chronicles 25 years of the agency’s transgressions.