home | about | documents | news | publications | FOIA | research | internships | search | donate | mailing list


The US Intelligence Community
By Jeffrey T. Richelson

Related postings

U.S. Reconnaissance Satellites: Domestic Targets
Documents Describe Use of Satellites in Support of Civil Agencies

Secrecy and U.S. Satellite Reconnaissance, 1958-1976
Even at Height of Cold War, U.S. Officials Regularly Argued Internally for More Transparency

The Vela Incident: Nuclear Test or Meteorite?
Documents Show Significant Disagreement with Presidential Panel Concerning Cause of September 22, 1979 Vela "Double-Flash" Detection

Eyes on the Bomb
U-2, CORONA, and KH-7 Imagery of Foreign Nuclear Installations

The Spy Satellite So Stealthy that the Senate Couldn't Kill It
Secret Program First Described in Book by Archive Senior Fellow

Eyes on Saddam
U.S. overhead imagery of Iraq

The U-2, OXCART, and the SR-71
U.S. aerial espionage in the Cold War and beyond

Science, Technology and the CIA
From satellites to psychics

Reconnaissance Flights and Sino-American Relations
Policy Developments and a Hainan Island Incident, 1969-1970

The NRO Declassified
The creation and evolution of America's secretive spy satellite agency

U.S. Satellite Imagery, 1960-1999

 

 



Declassifying the “Fact of” Satellite Reconnaissance

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 231
Edited by Jeffrey Richelson

Posted - October 1, 2007

For more information contact:
Jeffrey Richelson - 202/994-7000

 

Washington, DC, October 1, 2007 - Today the National Security Archive publishes a collection of documents concerning U.S. policy with regard to acknowledging the “fact of” U.S. satellite reconnaissance operations – particularly satellite photoreconnaissance. It was 29 years ago today that President Jimmy Carter, in a speech at the Kennedy Space Center, acknowledged that the U.S. was operating photoreconnaissance satellites.

As the documents illustrate, the perceived need to persuade segments of the public that the U.S. would be able to effectively monitor Soviet compliance with the strategic arms limitation agreements served as the catalyst for the acknowledgment. They also show that the Nixon administration had also considered acknowledging U.S. satellite reconnaissance activities in 1972 as a means of providing reassurance that any Soviet cheating would be detected, but the idea was rejected by national security adviser Henry Kissinger.

The documents published include memos stating the positions of various individuals and institutions on the issue in both the Nixon and Carter administrations, assessments of the risks and benefits of declassification, an assessment of the reactions to President Carter’s disclosure, and presidential directives from the Carter, Reagan and Clinton administrations specifying the classification associated with the “fact of” different types of satellite reconnaissance.


Electronic Briefing Book
Declassifying the “Fact of” Satellite Reconnaissance
By Jeffrey Richelson

Early in his administration, President John F. Kennedy directed that the U.S. satellite reconnaissance program, then consisting of film-return photographic reconnaissance satellites and low-earth orbiting electronic intelligence spacecraft, be covered by a cloak of secrecy. Kennedy was concerned that the Soviet Union would be tempted to follow their May 1960 shootdown of a CIA U-2 spy plane with an attempt to interfere with U.S. spy satellites – particularly if the U.S. acknowledged that it was spying on the secretive Soviets from space.

Kennedy made the decision over the advice of some advisers who argued that a covert program could be more easily depicted as illicit. (Note 1) But over the years, the issue of acknowledging the fact that the U.S. was conducting space reconnaissance operations would be revisited on several occasions – ultimately resulting in President’s Carter acknowledgment in an October 1, 1978, speech at the Kennedy Space Center (Document 32).

In the seventeen years between Kennedy’s assumption of the presidency and Carter’s revelation there were a number of developments relevant to the issue of secrecy and satellite reconnaissance. While officially classified as secret, the fact that the United States (and the Soviet Union) operated extensive space reconnaissance programs was by then well known to interested members of the public. In addition, the vociferous Soviet opposition to U.S. “space espionage” activities had faded once they began launching and operating their own reconnaissance satellites. Most importantly, the U.S. had entered into an arms control process with the Soviet Union, resulting in the 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), during the Nixon administration, and eventually SALT II during the Carter administration.

In contrast to the other treaties, the SALT treaties would cover the numbers and capabilities of the missiles (land and sea-based) and entire strategic arsenals of both superpowers. Both the Nixon and Carter administrations were faced with the task of convincing members of Congress, and the general public, that the U.S. Intelligence Community could effectively monitor Soviet compliance with the treaties – i.e., that the U.S. had the means of determining whether the Soviet Union was complying with restrictions on the number of missiles, ballistic-missile carrying submarines, the number of warheads carried by those missiles, and the number of strategic bombers.

While there had been some analysis done of the wisdom of declassifying the “fact of” satellite reconnaissance as early as 1963 (Document 1), it was the SALT agreements that required that the issue be seriously confronted – obtaining the views of key institutional players, weighing the risks and benefits of declassification, and reaching a decision within a specified period of time.

Thus, there are a number of relevant documents from June 1972, the month following the May 25, 1972, signature of the SALT I agreement by President Richard Nixon and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. The key decision maker, short of Nixon, was Henry Kissinger, the assistant to the president for national security affairs. A memo of June 9 (Document 3) from two key aides summarizes the arguments for and against and conveys the views of the various departments and agencies, along with their recommendation against public disclosure – a recommendation accepted by Kissinger just a few days later (Document 4).

The issue resurfaced in 1974, 1976, and 1977, but in each case the decision was made against declassification. Among those arguing for declassification in 1974 was DCI William Colby (Document 8), who noted that, under the current policy, government officials were faced with either violating security restrictions or appearing unresponsive when questioned about arms control verification matters in public. A 1976 memo (Document 10) raised the additional issue of whether the existence of U.S. signals intelligence satellites should be acknowledged. By 1976, the U.S. constellation of signals intelligence satellites included not only low-earth orbiting electronic intelligence satellites, but satellites in geosynchronous and highly-elliptical orbits which could intercept communications and missile telemetry. (Note 2) Lt. Gen. Lew Allen expressed his concern (Document 11) that the report would reach individuals who were not cleared to be informed of the existence of the SIGINT satellite program.

By May 1978, the Carter administration did change the classification level associated with the “fact of” satellite photographic reconnaissance to ‘Confidential’ from ‘Secret’ (Document 13). But the perceived need to assure the general public of the U.S. ability to monitor the new SALT agreement led to over two months of consideration – not only of the possibility of declassifying the “fact of” satellite imagery, but also the release of selected imagery from the satellites. Indeed, some argued, at least initially, that it was necessary to couple the release of satellite photographs with the acknowledgment of the “fact of” to be truly persuasive (Document 21).

The strongest and most unequivocal advocates of declassification of the “fact of” were Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and ACDA director Paul Warnke (Document 14c). The memos and examinations of the issue culminated in a September 20, 1978, meeting of the National Security Council’s Policy Review Committee (Space), which produced a recommendation for declassification – a recommendation approved the next day by President Carter (Document 22).

The decision was followed not only the president’s October 1 speech, but also preparation of an implementation plan (Document 25a, Document 25b) for notifying the Soviet Union, U.S. allies, and others of the impending announcement. In addition, an extensive list of potential questions from the press and public and authorized answers was prepared (Document 30b). Following the announcement, the State Department prepared an assessment of the reaction to the president’s acknowledgment – finding that negative consequences feared by some did not materialize (Document 34).

There have been three further declassifications concerning the “fact of” different elements of U.S. space reconnaissance activities. In June 1987, a revision to the Reagan administration’s national security directive on national space policy (Document 39) extended declassification to the fact that the U.S. satellite photoreconnaissance capability included a near-real-time capability. In 1996, the Clinton administration’s directive on national space policy (Document 41) stipulated that the facts of signals intelligence as well as measurement and signature intelligence collection from space were unclassified.

 


Read the Documents
Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
You will need to download and install the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

Document 1: Marshall S. Carter, Deputy Director, Central Intelligence, Memorandum for: Deputy Director (Intelligence), December 23, 1963. Secret.
Source: CIA Records Search Tool (CREST)

This memorandum from the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence to Ray Cline, the CIA’s Deputy Director (Intelligence) indicates that as early as late 1963, less than two years after the Kennedy administration had surrounded the entire reconnaissance program with a veil of secrecy, the issue of whether to acknowledge the very fact that the United States was engaged in photoreconnaissance from space was already being discussed within the government.

“Secretary Johnson” refers to Under Secretary of State U. Alexis Johnson, who headed the NSAM 156 committee, whose mission included consideration of the political aspects of space reconnaissance activities.

Document 2: Melvin R. Laird, Memorandum for Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Subject: Revelation of the Fact of Satellite Reconnaissance in Connection with the Submission of Arms Limitation Agreements to Congress, June 8, 1972. Top Secret.
Source: Nixon Presidential Materials Project, National Security Council Files, Box 883 SALT (Helsinki) May-August 1972, National Archives and Records Administration.

This memorandum is a reflection of the desire of the Nixon administration to defuse any opposition to the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty it had negotiated with the Soviet Union – the first treaty between the two superpowers that limited quantities of strategic weapons. In the memo, from Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird to national security adviser Henry Kissinger, Laird recommends acknowledging the fact of U.S. satellite reconnaissance, which Laird points out “is widely known.” Such acknowledgment would “make credible our assurance that we can verify compliance with these agreements without the necessity of on-site inspections.”

Document 3: Hemult Sonnenfeldt/Phil Odeen, Memorandum for Dr. Kissinger, Subject: Announcement of Fact of Satellite Surveillance, June 9, 1972. Secret.
Source: Nixon Presidential Materials Project, National Security Council Files, Box 883 SALT (Helsinki) May-August 1972, National Archives and Records Administration.

In this memo, two of Kissinger’s key aides summarize the arguments for and against announcing the ‘fact of’ satellite photography as well as the positions of the State Department, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Department of Defense, CIA, and Joint Chiefs of Staff. They also include their own views, along with their recommendation – against public admission.
 
Document 4: Phil Odeen/Helmut Sonnefeldt, Memorandum for Dr. Kissinger, Subject: Outstanding Issues in SALT, June 13, 1972. Secret.
Source: Nixon Presidential Materials Project, National Security Council Files, Box 883 SALT (Helsinki) May-August 1972, National Archives and Records Administration.

This memo informs Kissinger that a decision is urgently needed with regard to the issue of declassifying the fact of satellite reconnaissance. It also shows Kissinger’s decision not to announce the “fact of.”

Document 5: Untitled cable, June 21, 1972. Secret.
Source: CREST

This cable from an unspecified government organization informs its recipients of the decision not to reveal the fact of “the type of verification systems that will be used to monitor the SALT agreements" and therefore the current non-disclosure policy remained in effect.

Document 6: Deputy Director for Science & Technology, CIA to Director of Central Intelligence, January 10, 1974. Classification Unknown.
Source: CREST

This letter from Carl Duckett, the CIA’s deputy director for science and technology to DCI William E. Colby, informs him that the subject of downgrading the “fact of” satellite reconnaissance is likely to be raised by Fred Ikle, the head of ACDA at an upcoming meeting.

Document 7: Lt. Gen. Samuel V. Wilson, Memorandum for the Chairman and Members, National Security Council Intelligence Committee, Subject: DCI Proposal to Declassify “the Fact of” Satellite Reconnaissance, January 11, 1974. Classification Unknown.
Source: CREST

Lt. Gen. Samuel Wilson, the chairman of the NSCIC Working Group informs the committee’s chairman and members reports on the group’s consideration of the issue of declassifying the existence of U.S. reconnaissance satellites and provides its recommendation that the “fact of” continued to be classified Secret.

Document 8: W.E. Colby, Director of Central Intelligence, Memorandum for: The Honorable Henry A. Kissinger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Subject: Modification of Security Classification, August 21, 1974. Secret.
Source: CREST

This memo, from Colby to Kissinger, seeks presidential instructions with regard to the question of the classification of the “fact of” satellite reconnaissance, noting that there existed a difference of opinion within the Intelligence Community and the Departments affected. Colby notes that, given the fact that the existence of such a program was widely known and subject to public comment that, under the existing restrictions, government officials face a dilemma when responding to questions from Congress, the press, or the public. He also reviews the arguments and provides his recommendation.

Document 9: James R. Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense, to Honorable William E. Colby, Director of Central Intelligence, August 22, 1974. Secret.
Source: CREST

In his letter to DCI Colby, Defense Secretary of Schlesinger, who had opposed declassification in 1972, while at the Office of Management and Budget (Document 3), indicates that as Secretary of Defense he continued to oppose declassification. In his view there was little to be gained and much to be lost. He goes on to provide several reasons why he believed declassification would be unwise.

Document 10: Robert Ellsworth, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Memorandum for Mr. Bush, Subject: Declassification of Satellite Reconnaissance, June 16, 1976. Secret.
Source: CREST 

Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Ellsworth, in this letter to director of Central Intelligence George Bush, notes the existence of a continuing debate within the Intelligence Community with regard to the classification of satellite reconnaissance activities. Further, he reports on two recent efforts to examine the issue that produced different conclusions – and that one recommended not only the declassification of the fact of photographic reconnaissance satellite, but also the existence of signals intelligence satellites.

Document 11: Lt. Gen. Lew Allen Jr., Director, National Security Agency, Memorandum for the Deputy to the DCI for the Intelligence Community, September 22, 1976. Top Secret.
Source: CREST

This memorandum from the head of the National Security Agency, expresses the concern that a paper concerning the issue of declassifying the fact of satellite reconnaissance would reveal to uncleared individuals that the U.S. was gathering communications intelligence via satellite.

Document 12: Hans Mark, Director, National Reconnaissance Office, Memorandum for: Dr. Charles W. Cook et. al., August 25, 1977. Top Secret.
Source: CREST

This memorandum from NRO director Hans Mark is directed to his deputy (Charles Cook) and other key NRO officials. It covers a range of topics – including the vulnerability of space-based systems, national vs. tactical use of space-based reconnaissance systems, the emergence of new technologies, and declassification. Mark writes that “I believe that the pressures to do something in a declassified way will be too strong to resist.”

Document 13: Jimmy Carter, Presidential Directive/NSC-37, Subject: National Space Policy, May 11, 1978. Top Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This presidential directive deals with a number of issues concerning U.S. space policy – military and civilian. It indicates that the security classification of the fact of space reconnaissance had been lowered from 1974, but not declassified.

Document 14a: Robert A. Rosenberg, Memoradum for: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Subject: Declassification of “Fact of” Satellite Reconnaissance, August 11, 1978 w/enclosures:

Document 14b: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Memorandum for: Frank Press, Subject: “Fact of” Reconnaissance from Space, June 30, 1978. Confidential.

Document 14c: Cyrus Vance, Paul Warnke, Memorandum for: The President, Subject: SALT Verification, August 7, 1978. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The issue of the U.S. ability to effectively monitor a new strategic arms limitation agreement, SALT II, would become a major issue for the Carter administration. Just as the Nixon administration considered acknowledging U.S. operation of photographic reconnaissance satellites as a means of convincing the skeptical members of the public that the U.S. would discover Soviet violations of the agreement. Documents 14a-14c provide the views of Carter administration officials Secretary of State Vance, ACDA director Warnke on the issue, and national security adviser Brzezinksi’s tasking of science adviser Frank Press to examine the issue.

Document 15: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Memorandum for: Secretary of State, Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Subject: Declassification of “Fact of” Satellite Reconnaissance, August 16, 1978. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This memo informs Vance and Warnke that Brzezinski did not intend to forward  their memo of August 7 to President Carter until the NSC Policy Review Committee had reviewed the matter and that science adviser Frank Press had agreed to produce a separate examination of the “fact of” issue for early consideration by the PRC. 

Document 16: Deputy to the DCI for Resource Management, Memorandum for: Under Secretary of the Air Force et. al., Subject: Satellite Reconnaissance Security Policy Alternatives, September 5, 1978. Secret w/enclosures: Satellite Reconnaissance Security Policy Alternatives, n.d. Secret. and Civil Space Policy IC Working Group, n.d. Confidential.
Source: CREST

The Satellite Reconnaissance Security Policy Alternatives paper, attached to the September 5, 1978 memorandum from the Deputy to the DCI for Resource Management considers the policy setting, the benefits and risks of declassifying the “fact of” satellite reconnaissance, the issue for decision with regard to “fact of,” the possible declassification of photoreconnaissance imagery, and implementation considerations (including informing U.S. allies and the Soviet Union), and recommended action on declassification of imagery.

Document 17: Hans Mark, Memorandum for Deputy to the DCI for Resource Management, Subject: NRO Comments on the Satellite Reconnaissance Security Policy Alternatives, September 8, 1978. Top Secret.
Source: CREST

This memo conveys Mark’s willingness to see the declassification of the fact that the U.S. operates photographic reconnaissance satellites, but also suggests raising the classification level attached to the operation of signals intelligence satellites. He also writes that the U.S. should anticipate a heavy demand for the products of photo reconnaissance from U.S. and foreign sources.

Document 18: Daniel J. Murphy, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy/Director, Joint Staff, “Joint Talking Paper for Secretary of Defense,” September 18, 1978. Top Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This paper for the Secretary of Defense considers both the possible declassification of the “fact of” satellite photography and the release of selected satellite imagery. For each issue, the paper examines the benefits and risks associated with declassification, and provides recommendations from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Document 19: Warren Christopher, Acting Secretary of State, Memorandum for: Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Subject: Declassifying the Fact of Satellite Photo Reconnaissance, September 20, 1978. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

In this memo Warren Christopher reiterates his and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s support for declassifying the “fact of” satellite photo reconnaissance.  The motive behind their recommendation, Christopher writes, is the need to convince the general public who “want SALT but worry about Soviet cheating.” He also transmits their views on the possible release of satellite photography.

Document 20: Robert Rosenberg, Memorandum for: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Subject: PRC (Space) Meeting – Paragraph for the President, September 20, 1978. Confidential w/enclosure: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Memorandum for: The President, Subject: PRC (Space) Meeting, n.d. Confidential.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The memo attached to Robert Rosenberg’s memo, is a paper for national security adviser Brzezinski to present to President Carter. It describes the topics discussed at the September 21, 1978 meeting of the NSC Policy Review Committee (Space) – including possible declassification of “fact of” satellite reconnaissance and declassification of imagery and information.

Document 21: Robert A. Rosenberg, Memorandum for: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Subject: Declassifying the “Fact of” Satellite Photoreconnaissance, September 21,1978, Secret w/enclosure:  Zbigniew Brzezinski, Memorandum for: Acting Secretary of State, Subject: Declassifying the Fact of Satellite Photo Reconnaissance, n.d. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The cover memo to a proposed memo from national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to the acting Secretary of State, notes that the State Department had a change of heart with regard to the issue of releasing satellite imagery – feeling that much more study was needed before an intelligent decision could be made.

Document 22: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Memorandum for: The President, Subject: Public Acknowledgement of the “Fact of” Photoreconnaissance Satellites, September 21, 1978. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

In this memo to the president, the national security adviser informs him that the issue of whether to declassify the fact of satellite photoreconnaissance “is ready for your decision.” The memo notes that the PRC reached a consensus concerning that issue, but that there were differing views concerning the release of imagery. It also summarizes the positions of different agencies. In addition, it discusses the issue of declassification in the light of the court proceedings involving William Kampiles – a former CIA employee who sold the manual for the KH-11 reconnaissance satellite to Soviet intelligence. The check mark next to approve, indicates Carter’s decision to declassify the “fact of” photoreconnaissance from space.

Document 23: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Memorandum for: The Secretary of State et. al., Subject: Public Acknowledgement of the “Fact of” Photoreconnaissance Satellites, September 22, 1978. Confidential.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This memo, from the national security adviser, informs senior officials of the national security and space sectors of  President Jimmy Carter’s administration of Carter’s declassification decision. It also tasks the State Department, ACDA, and the DCI to undertake actions in connection with the decision. It also notes that the president wanted the actions completed by October 1, when he planned to acknowledge the “fact of” in a speech.

Document 24: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Memorandum for: The President, Subject: Admission of Satellite Reconnaissance, September 25, 1978 Confidential w/att: Stansfield Turner, Memorandum for the President, Subject: Admission of Satellite Reconnaissance, September 22, 1978.  Confidential.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The attached memo from Director of Central Intelligence Turner is in reaction to being informed of Carter’s plan to acknowledge U.S. photoreconnaissance satellites in an October 1 speech. Turner cautions that declassification just prior to the Kampiles trial could adversely impact the prosecution and suggests declassification in the course of a trial. He also suggests that if the president chooses to include the matter in his October 1 speech it would be unwise to explicitly note the change in policy – that to do so could produce adverse reactions from both the public and foreign intelligence services. The covering memo notes the Justice Department did not share Turner's concern about the possible impact on the Kampiles trial.

Document 25a: Christine Dodson, Staff Secretary, National Security Council, Memorandum for: Arnold Kanter, Department of State, Subject: Preparations for Declassifying the Fact of Satellite Photoreconnaissance, September 26,1978. Confidential. w/enclosure: 

Document 25b: Arnold Kanter, Memorandum to: OSTP – Mr. Morrisey, Subject: Preparations for Declassifying the Fact of Satellite Photoreconnaissance, September 25,1978. Confidential. w/att: Preparations for Declassifying “Fact of,” n.d. Confidential.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The memo from Arnold Kanter, attached to Document 25a, is a cover memorandum that describes note the four elements of the plans for consultation of various parties in relation to President Carter’s plan to declassifying the “fact of” satellite reconnaissance. The proposed plan, described in detail in the attachment to Kanter’s memo, consisted of four elements – procedures for notifying the Soviet Union, the cable to inform NATO allies and selected host governments, plans for consulting with Congress, and contingency plans for dealing with possible U.N. and lesser-developed countries.

Document 26: Theodore M. Anderson, Acting Chief Special Security Center, Memorandum for: TSO’s and BSO’s, Subject: Presidential Policy Decision, September 26, 1978. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This memorandum, from the acting chief of the CIA’s Special Security Center to TALENT and BYEMAN Security Officers – responsible for the security of satellite reconnaissance product and details of satellite systems respectively, informs the security officers of the president’s declassification decision and indicates that until his announcement the “fact of” would remain classified. The memo also discusses the limited nature of the disclosure, the need for the TSOs and BSOs to brief personnel under their jurisdiction, and possible need to brief formerly cleared personnel “who may find themselves the object of press attention.”

Document 27: NSC Coordinator, Memorandum for: See Distribution, Subject: Space PRC Meeting of 20 September 1978. September 28, 1978. Confidential w/att: Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Space PRC Meeting on 20 September 21, 1978.
Source: CREST

The attachment to the covering memo summarizes the meeting of the Policy Review Committee (Space) that preceded President Carter’s decision to declassify the “fact of” satellite photoreconnaissance. It provides a brief description of the views of eight different agencies, the consensus opinion, and the action’s expected of various agencies.

Document 28: NSC Coordinator, Memorandum for: Director of Central Intelligence, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: President’s discussion of  “fact of” Photoreconnaissance, September 28, 1978. Confidential.
Source: CREST

This memo from the NSC Coordinator to DCI Stansfield Turner describes the elements of President Carter’s planned October 1 speech at the Kennedy Space Center and quotes the specific portion acknowledging the “fact of.” The author of the memo notes that he (or she) was asked to check with Turner to see if he considered the wording satisfactory.

Document 29: Robert A. Rosenberg, Memorandum for: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Subject: Guidance  on Public Queries Related to Declassification of the “Fact of” Photoreconnaissance Satellites, September 28, 1978. Confidential. w/att:  “Questions and Answers,” n.d., Confidential.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The memo from Robert Rosenbery to the national security adviser describes the attached proposed authorized answers to questions expected to follow President Carter’s acknowledgment on October 1, notes that all questions are to be directed the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, and informs Brzezinski that it has been sent to the DCI and Office of the Secretary of Defense to determine if there were any major objections. The attachment contains 31 possible questions and the approved answers with handwritten changes.

Document 30a: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Memorandum for: The Secretary of State et. al., Subject: Guidance on Public Queries Related to Declassification of the “Fact of” Photoreconnaissance Satellites, September 29, 1978. Confidential. w/enclosure:

Document 30b: Guidance on Questions Related to President’s Statement on U.S. Satellite Photoreconnaissance,” n.d., Confidential w/att: “Questions and Answers,” n.d. Confidential.
Source: CREST

The enclosure to the covering memo from the national security adviser to the senior officials consists of a three-paragraph press guidance, which describes the overall guidelines for responding to press enquiries, that only one office would be authorized to respond to questions, and notes that anticipated questions and authorized answers are attached. The Question and Answers attachment represents the final form of the document after incorporating the handwritten revisions to the attachment to Document 29.

Document 31: John F. Blake, Deputy to the DCI for Support, Memorandum for: Deputy to the DCI for Resource Management, Subject: Declassification of  “Fact of”, September 29, 1978. Secret.
Source: CREST

In this memo the Deputy to the DCI for Resource Management is informed of various implementation steps in progress in anticipation of President Carter’s October 1 acknowledgment speech.

Document 32: “Remarks by President Carter at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, October 1, 1978,”Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, October 9, 1978.
Source: Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents

As planned in this speech on the general theme of U.S. activities in space, President Carter acknowledged that the U.S. operated photoreconnaissance satellites.

Document 33: Christine Dodson, Staff Secretary, National Security Council, Memorandum for: The Secretary of State, Subject: Summary of Conclusions for September 20, 1978 Policy Review Committee (Space) Meeting, October 5, 1978. Confidential w/att: Policy Review Committee (Space) Meeting, September 20, 1978. Secret.
Source: CREST

The attachment to the memo from the NSC’s Christine Dodson provides another summary of the discussion at the September 20 PRC (Space) meeting that preceded the president’s decision to acknowledge the “fact of” photoreconnaissance from space. The Summary of Conclusions attachment deals with two topics – declassification and civil space policy.

Document 34: Peter Tarnoff , Executive Secretary, Department of State, Memorandum for: Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Dr. Frank Press, Subject: Reactions to President’s Acknowledgment of the Fact of Satellite Photoreconnaissance, October 14, 1978. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This memo from State Department official Peter Tarnoff to the national security adviser and presidential science adviser constitutes an assessment of the reactions to President Carter’s October 1 acknowledgment. It focuses on the reactions of Congress, the U.S. public, the Soviets, allies, the foreign media, and in the United Nations.

Document 35: Peter Tarnoff, Executive Secretary, Department of State, Memorandum for Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, The White House, October 14, 1978. Confidential.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This memo, also from Peter Tarnoff (Document 34), recommends that the U.S. presentation on outer space at the upcoming U.N. General Assembly sessions mention its use of photoreconnaissance satellites “to avoid charges that we are avoiding the issue.”

Document 36: Robert Rosenberg, Memorandum for: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Subject: Reactions to President’s Acknowledgement of the “Fact of” Satellite Photoreconaissance, October 18, 1978. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This memo is partially based on the October 14, 1978 State Department memo (Document 34) which assessed the responses to President Carter’s October 1 speech. It also provides the author’s assessment – which is “very good – compared to what the ‘no’ votes in the PRC forecast.” It notes that several other organizations aside from the Department of State were tasked to provide reports on the reaction.

Document 37a: Christine Dodson, Staff Secretary, National Security Council, Memorandum for: Peter Tarnoff, Executive Secretary, Department of State, Subject: Treatment of the “Fact of” U.S. Photoreconnaissance Activities during the UNGA, October 19, 1978. Confidential w/enclosure:

Document 37b: Robert Rosenberg, Memorandum for: Christine Dodson, Subject: NSC Concurrence on Proposed UNGA Message, October 19, 1978. Classification Not Known w/att: Department of State to U.S. UN Delegation, Subject: Treatment of the “Fact of” US Photoreconnaissance Activities During the UNGA, October 17, 1978. Classification Not Known.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The first document suggests a revision to a proposed message from the State Department to the U.S. mission to the U.N. Document 37b consists of a covering memo and the proposed message to the U.S. mission. As indicated in Document 37a the change is intended to more accurately reflect the scope of the president’s disclosure.

Document 38: Deputy to the DCI for Resource Management, Memorandum for: Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: Reactions to the President’s Acknowledgment of the Fact of Satellite Reconnaissance, November 14, 1978. Secret.
Source: CREST

This memorandum for the Director of Central Intelligence also focuses on reactions to the disclosure in the president’s October 1 speech –based on the State Department memo (Document 34). It notes no adverse reaction, but observes that the agency’s prediction that disclosure of the “fact of” would not relieve public concern about SALT was borne out.

Document 39: Ronald Reagan, National Security Decision Directive 42, “National Space Policy,” July 4, 1982. (Revised June 1987) Top Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This Reagan directive as a result of the June 1987 extended the declassification of the “fact of” to the fact that U.S. satellite photoreconnaissance capabilities include a near-real-time capability and provides indications and warning data. 

Document 40: Daniel C. Kurtzer, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Memorandum for: Vice Adm. J.M. McConnell, Director, National Security Agency, Subject: Proposed Declassification of the “Fact of” Overhead SIGINT Collection, September 6, 1995. Top Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

In this memorandum for the director of the National Security Agency was undertaken by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) in response to a request by NSA for reaction to a proposal by the National Reconnaissance Office to declassify the “fact of” signals intelligence from space. It seems clear, despite the redactions, that INR was concerned about reactions in those countries – Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany – that hosted the ground stations associated with SIGINT satellites.    

Document 41: The White House, Fact Sheet, “National Space Policy,” September 19, 1996. Unclassified.
Source: White House

This fact sheet, describes the content of a President Clinton’s Presidential Decision Directive on National Space Policy. It further extends “fact of” acknowledgments to the fact that the U.S. employs satellites to collect signals intelligence as had been proposed by the NRO
(Document 40) and that the U.S. employs satellites to gather measurement and signature intelligence.


Notes

1. On the evolution of secrecy with regard to satellite reconnaissance in its early years, see Jeffrey T. Richelson (ed)., National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 225, Secrecy and U.S. Satellite Reconnaissance, 1958-1976, July 13, 2007.

2. Christopher Anson Pike, “CANYON, RHYOLITE and AQUACADE: US Signals Intelligence Satellites in the 1970s,” Spaceflight, 37, 11 (November 1995), pp. 381-383.


home | about | documents | news | publications | FOIA | research | internships | search | donate | mailing list

Contents of this Web site Copyright 1995-2007 National Security Archive. All rights reserved.
Terms and conditions for use of materials found on this Web site.