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Out of the Black: The Declassification of the NRO

Declassified Documents Depict Debates Over Whether to Declassify the “Fact of” U.S. Satellite Reconnaissance Organization

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 257

Posted - September 18, 2008

For more information contact:
Jeffrey T. Richelson - (202) 994-7000

 

 

Washington D.C., September 18, 2008 - Today, on the 16th anniversary of the declassification of the fact of  the existence of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and National Reconnaissance Program (NRP), the National Security Archive publishes a collection of documents concerning the declassification decision and its implementation. The NRO and NRP were established in 1961 to coordinate the satellite reconnaissance activities of the CIA and Air Force. 

As the documents illustrate, the issue of NRO declassification was considered as early as 1973. The documents further show that DCI Stansfield Turner (1977-1981) concluded that the fact of  NRO and NRP existence did not meet the test of classification. As a result, Turner included declassification as part of a plan to revise the system of handling Sensitive Compartmented Information – but that plan was not implemented before the Carter administration was replaced by the Reagan administration, nor thereafter.

The documents also portray the process of declassification that was set in motion in 1992 due to a variety of factors. The memos concern the recommendations from NRO Director Martin C. Faga and DCI Robert Gates, the issues that had to be considered, as well as  the actions needed to prepare for and implement declassification.


Out of the Black: The Declassification of the NRO
By Jeffrey T. Richelson

By early August 1960, both the U.S. Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were attempting to provide the United States with a space reconnaissance capability. The secret CIA effort, codenamed CORONA, would yield its first positive results as a consequence of a launch on August 18. On August 25, a National Security Council review of the Air Force program, codenamed SAMOS, resulted in a decision to establish a new Air Force office which would report directly to the Secretary of the Air Force. Air Force Secretary Eugene Zuckert moved quickly, establishing the Office of Missile and Satellite Systems before the month was over. (Note 1)

Initially, both SAMOS and the changes in Air Force in managing the project were unclassified. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had specifically mandated that it would remain so – although the specifics of its operations and its product would be classified, as would efforts toward developing higher- resolution systems. The August 1960 management changes were reported matter-of-factly by Aviation Week. Listings for both the Director of the SAMOS Project and the Office of Missile and Satellite Systems (with a subheading for Satellite Reconnaissance) even appeared in the April 1961 issue of the Pentagon’s unclassified telephone directory. (Note 2)

More significant changes were still to come.  Some officials, including key presidential advisers James R. Killian and Edwin Land, believed that greater coordination of CIA and Air Force efforts, along the lines of the U-2 program, was required. Their push, plus at least one CIA-Air Force dispute over a planned launch in 1961, helped convince the new Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, of the need for a new organization that would combine the two agencies’ reconnaissance programs.

On September 6, 1961, a letter from Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric to Director of Central Intelligence Allen W. Dulles established the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) with the mission of synchronizing the space and aerial overflight operations of the Air Force and the CIA. The NRO and its CIA and Air Force components were to develop and operate aerospace collection systems in accordance with the National Reconnaissance Program (NRP), and institute a uniform security control system to protect information about those systems. In the spring of 1962 the ongoing Navy reconnaissance satellite program, which gathered the signals emitted by foreign radars, was added to the NRP. (Note 3)

Creation of the NRO was part of the process of transforming the previously openly acknowledged U.S. space reconnaissance effort into a “black” or classified program. Defense Department acknowledgment of launches associated with the SAMOS program had ceased prior to the fall of 1961, while CORONA remained a covert effort. Of particular concern to President John F. Kennedy and his advisers was the possibility that the Soviet leadership would feel compelled to follow up its shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers’s U-2 spy plane with similar actions against publicly acknowledged space reconnaissance vehicles. (Note 4)

The secrecy attached to the existence of the NRO and NRP was spelled out in Defense Department directives and other memos. A June 14, 1963, memo (Document 1), apparently from the CIA Office of Security, informed its recipient (whose identity has been redacted from the declassified version) that “the title NRO is classified SECRET and the existence of the National Reconnaissance Program within the U.S. Government is classified TOP SECRET.” The memo went on to state that “it is essential that all appropriate personnel within your respective jurisdictions be fully aware of the covert nature of NRO and that you conduct a general briefing of such personnel directed toward the need to continuously protect the security of this activity.” (Note 5)

Thus, the NRO was established as an organization whose very existence was classified. While it existed “officially” it did not exist “public ly.” Nor for a decade was the NRO even an “open secret” – an institution or activity which, while officially classified, is nevertheless mentioned or discussed. Then in 1971, a New York Times article included the first mention of the Office’s existence – but so briefly that there was no media follow up. But in 1973, following an inadvertent disclosure in a congressional report, the Washington Post published a major article on the Office. (Document 4).

For a number of years following that disclosure the Defense Department’s public affairs office was willing, if asked, to confirm the existence of the NRO but provided no further information (Document 3). This was not considered to constitute official declassification, however. Subsequently the DoD decided it would no longer confirm the existence of the NRO and the Office remained an official secret until September 18, 1992, when Deputy Secretary of Defense Donald J. Atwood released a one-page memorandum to correspondents acknowledging its existence (Document 27).

The issue of declassifying the NRO had been raised in the early 1970s by the Office’s Director, John McLucas, with Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms, but McLucas recalled that Helms was afraid of the “slippery slope” – that an initial harmless disclosure would ultimately lead to damaging revelations. (Note 6)  Despite such concerns, the issue of the possible declassification of the NRO was one of many discussed in an undated paper (Document 2), apparently from 1973. An annex to that paper contained language to be inserted in a National Security Council Intelligence Directive (NSCID) on the NRP to be used in case the decision was made to declassify the NRO and NRP.  The issue was also examined in a 1974 study on NRO security requirements (Document 6c).

Despite the consideration given to formally declassifying the NRO, it remained covert through the rest of the decade – even though the “fact of” U.S. satellite reconnaissance was acknowledged by President Jimmy Carter on October 1, 1978. (Note 7)  Declassification was also envisioned as part of the 1979 plan of Carter’s DCI, Stansfield Turner, to radically revise the system for handling “ above top secret ” Sensitive Compartmented Information – a plan that would never be implemented. In memos concerning that plan (Document 7) it was noted that the terms “National Reconnaissance Office” and “National Reconnaissance Program” “fail to meet the test of classification.”

However, it would be well over a decade before those terms were declassified. In 1991, when Turner authored an article for Foreign Affairs, he wrote that he used the term “Satellite Reconnaissance Agency” to describe the NRO, explaining that “For reasons that are difficult to comprehend, the true name of this agency is classified.” (Note 8)

But a year later the existence of the NRO would be declassified. A number of factors helped spur this move  – the much wider use in government of the products of NRO systems, pressure from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as  the view of NRO Director Martin Faga that the terms did not meet the test of classification (Document 20).  Another factor was the suggestion of a review panel chaired by former Lockheed chief operating officer Robert Fuhrman (Document 12) and commissioned by DCI Robert Gates that the organization’s existence should be declassified.

Preparations for declassification began no later than April 1992 when the Fuhrman panel completed its report – even though formal declassification would not occur until all the preparatory work had been completed. That work required decisions on exactly what information was to be revealed, plans for informing the public as well as relevant government personnel of the extent and limits of the declassification, plans for dealing with foreign reaction, and the need to establish or enhance offices to deal with Freedom of Information Act requests, public queries, and Congressional liaison. (e.g. Document 19)

While the initial declassification did not include information that had been considered for public release in the period between April and September 18 – such as the NRO’s organizational structure or its development and operation of signals intelligence (SIGINT) satellites – further declassification initiatives included information on NRO organization and launches as well as historical data, including data on imagery and SIGINT satellite systems. (Note 9)

                  

 


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Document 1: Director of Security, CIA, Memorandum for: [Deleted], Subject: National Reconnaissance Security Information, June 14, 1963. Secret.
Source: CIA Records Search Tool (CREST)

This memo informs the recipient of the agreements under which the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) operates, that its existence is classified Secret while the existence of the National Reconnaissance Program (NRP) is classified Top Secret.  It also describes the procedures to follow to permit unclassified  references to the leadership, staff, and organization without using classified terms.

Document 2: Memorandum for the DCI, Subject: The EXCOM/NRO: A discussion of the Management Issues, n.d. Secret, w/att: Draft National Security Council Intelligence Directive No. ___, The National Reconnaissance Program, n.d., but circa summer 1973.
Source: CREST

This memorandum covers a number of issues concerning the management of the NRO and authority over the NRP, including whether the organization’s existence and the title of its director should be declassified. It discusses the pros and cons of an overt NRO as well as whether its director should be an Air Force or Defense Department official. It also raises the matter of issuing a National Security Council Intelligence Directive as a charter for the NRP and NRO. The attached draft directive, never issued, included an annex with the language to be added if it was decided to declassify the organization’s existence.

Document 3: Unattributed cable, Subject: News Release Regarding the NRO, December 12, 1973. Secret.
Source: CREST

On December 9, 1973, the Washington Post published the first major article on the NRO (which had only been previously  mentioned fleetingly beginning in 1971).  The article was based on an inadvertent disclosure in a congressional report a few months earlier. This cable notes that in the event of a press query, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense/Public Affairs was authorized to acknowledge only the fact of its existence and that it was directed by a senior  Air Force civilian official.

Document 4: Chief, Special Security Center, Memorandum for: [Deleted], Chairman Ad HocGroup Studying Security of the NRO, Subject: History of NRO Security Breaches, January 7, 1974. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This memo, from the chief of the CIA Special Security Center, summarizes the eight references to the NRO that had appeared in the press, starting with the January 22, 1971, mention in the New York Times. The redactions apparently include all commentary on the accuracy of the press discussions.

Document 5: Executive Assistant, Office of the Director, NRO, Memorandum for the Record: Subject: SAF/US Staff Meeting, 5 February 1974, February 6, 1974. Top Secret.
Source:  Freedom of Information Act Request

This memorandum for the record, written by a member of the NRO director’s office, covers a number of subjects relating to NRO activities – including the decision to shelve a planned press release acknowledging the existence of the NRO.

Document 6a: Bruce A. Lowe, Executive Secretary, Memorandum for USIB Principals, Subject: Security Requirements for the NRO, June 24, 1974. Top Secret

Document 6b: J.W. Plummer, Director, National Reconnaissance Office, Memorandum for the Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: Security Requirements for the NRO, June 24, 1974. Top Secret (enclosure to 6a).

Document 6c: Report on the Review of Security Requirements of the National Reconnaissance Program, June 24, 1974. Top Secret. (attachment to 6b)

Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The first document in this group is a cover letter informing recipients that Director of Central Intelligence William Colby has requested that the attached memo from NRO Director James Plummer be circulated to the U.S. Intelligence Board. The memo is itself a cover letter explaining that its attachment is the final report of a working group that has been studying the security requirements of the NRO. The report itself, over 17 single-space pages, covers alternative options with regard to degrees of secrecy, declassification, and decompartmentation. 

Document 7: [Deleted], Memorandum for: Chairman, NFIB Working Group on Compartmentation, APEX Policy Elements, Subject: Proposed Changes to Classification and Compartmentation Regulations, September 28, 1979 w/att: Memorandum for: APEX Control Officers, Subject: APEX Policy, n.d.
Source: CREST

One of Stansfield Turner’s attempted innovations when he became Director of Central Intelligence in 1977 was to revise the codeword system that had evolved over the previous 17 years, in order to provide additional protection beyond Top Secret for information concerning overhead reconnaissance, signals intelligence, underwater reconnaissance, and other sensitive collection activities as well as intelligence reports based on the intelligence gathered. Part of the attempted innovation was the creation of an APEX control system to replace several control systems – including the  BYEMAN and TALENT-KEYHOLE systems. Both the undated covering memo and dated memo envision the declassification of the terms “National Reconnaissance Office” and “National Reconnaissance Program,” noting that “they fail to meet the test of classification.”

Document 8: [Deleted], Chief CSG, Note for: Chairman, DCI Security Committee, November 7, 1979, Classification Not Available.
Source: CREST

This memo, from the chief of a DCI Security Committee component to the committee’s chairman, notes that DCI Turner has prepared a memo for the record after a meeting in late October with Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, in which they discussed the possibility of declassifying the existence of the NRO. Turner’s memo was followed by an attempt to task various Intelligence Community components to study the issue. The memo goes on to describe the back and forth – in terms of memos and personal contacts – that followed. It contains the allegation that “[Deleted] NRO, is supposedly helping but in truth is just stalling and doing nothing.”

Document 9a: Abraham Wagner, Analytical Assessments Corporation, Declassification of the NRO, April 15, 1980. Secret.

Document 9b: [Deleted], Memorandum for Mr. Haas, Mr. Hill, Subject: “Devil’s Advocate” Paper on Declassifying the NRO, July 17, 1980. Top Secret.
 
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

During Carter’s last months in office, a proposal for the declassification of the NRO came from outside the government – in the form of a “ Devil’s Advocate” paper delivered to the NRO by Abraham Wagner, the head of Analytical Assessments Corp., a small Marina del Rey research firm, which had recently completed a study for the deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Review entitled  Open Source Revelations on U.S. National Technical Means. In it Wagner examined some assumptions he considered fundamental to any discussion of NRO declassification, as well as four declassification options.

That July, Wagner’s paper made it to the desks of Donald Haas, the CIA official serving as NRO deputy director in 1980, and Jimmie Hill, a long-time senior NRO official who would become its deputy director in 1982, succeeding Haas – as reflected in Document 9b. The second of the Top Secret memo’s two paragraphs indicates that the author is not persuaded by any declassification arguments and believes that the two NRO officials will not see its value as a means of stimulating discussion over possible declassification but rather as a means to help block it.

If anything, the paper may have resulted in even greater secrecy. Haas apparently circled the statement on the first page, that “at present OSD (PA) will confirm the fact that NRO exists but will provide no other data.” Subsequently, the Defense Department’s public affairs office no longer would admit to the existence of the NRO.

Document 10: [Abraham Wagner] to [Deleted], Subject: Contingency Planning for Declassification, March 1, 1981. Secret.
Source:  Freedom of Information Act Request

Wagner followed up his “Devil’s Advocate” paper with this memo. The memo followed an article in the New York Times that same day which claimed that the Reagan administration was considering formally declassifying the existence of the NRO. The memo suggests that it might be useful to begin an analysis of declassification alternatives and declassification contingency planning and specifies what such efforts would entail.

Document 11: Maj. Richard M. McCormick, Memorandum for General Stilwell, Subject: NY Times Article on the NRP (S/TK), March 3, 1981. Top Secret.
Source:  Freedom of Information Act Request

One reaction to the March 1 New York Times article was this memo from a member of the staff of General Richard Stillwell, the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Review. The un-redacted portion of the memo summarizes the “principal accusations” of the article and suggests that the article was written with the intention of “baiting” the U.S. government to “respond with information” that could be used “to support an investigative reporting thrust.”

Document 12: DCI Task Force on the National Reconnaissance Office, Report to the Director of Central Intelligence, Final Report, April 1992. Secret. (Extract).
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

In March 1992, Director of Central Intelligence Robert Gates requested that a task force, which was headed by Lockheed Corporation COO Robert Fuhrman, examine a variety of issues concerning the future of the National Reconnaissance. Their recommendations concerned, inter alia,  the NRO’s role in the development and operation of overhead intelligence systems, its organizational structure, and the location of its program offices. The panel also recommended that the “fact of” the NRO be declassified.

Document 13: [Deleted], Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Board of Directors Overt/Covert Guidance, 1 May 1992, May 1, 1992. Secret.
Source:  Freedom of Information Act Request

In contrast to previous recommendations that the NRO’s existence be declassified, the Fuhrman panel’s recommendations (Document 12) helped set in motion a process that would result in declassification of that information. This May 1 memo provides guidance from the NRO board of directors on the process of moving the NRO from a covert to an overt organization. It focuses on a number of topics – the unclassified description of the NRO’s mission, the identification of NRO officials, staffing of the office, its location, the National Reconnaissance Program, and the Freedom of Information Act.

Document 14: [Deleted], Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Overt/Covert Taskings to Security and General Counsel, May 4, 1992. Secret.
Source:  Freedom of Information Act Request

This memo represents another step in the declassification process – illustrating the number of issues that the NRO security and general counsel offices had to deal with prior to declassification, including the FOIA, litigation, public profile, and physical security, among others.

Document 15: [Deleted], Memorandum for: [Deleted], Subject: Request for Evaluation of NRO Declassification, May 20, 1992. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The identity of the author as well as the recipient of this memo have been redacted , but its recipient may have been a member of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, since the insights requested pertain to the foreign policy consequences of  NRO declassification. 

Document 16: NRO, Working Papers, Overt/Covert Study, May 28, 1992 Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This memo, in part, provides an outline of some of the actions that needed to be taken to implement the recommendations of the Fuhrman panel (Document 12). It also provides some of the key elements of the “Security Alternative Position” on the issue of NRO declassification – a position which suggested that NRO security would have preferred that the NRO remain a covert organization.

Document 17: NRO, Working Papers, Overt/Covert Study, Trial Solution, May 28, 1992.
Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act

The essence of this paper is its identification and discussion of the four “big issues” concerning the declassification of the NRO – keeping the good aspects of the NRO, the amount of detail concerning the NRO’s structure that should be declassified, how far to decompartment information for military support, and the Freedom of Information Act and other means of public disclosure.

Document 18: [Deleted], Subject: Overt-Covert-DOS-REP-Input, July 27, 1992. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This NRO memo recounts the author’s conversation with Richard Curl, the head of the Office of Intelligence Resources of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research – an office which advised the INR on U.S. technical collection resources. Curl had been asked to examine the foreign impact of NRO declassification. In the memo the author reports on Curl’s recommendation.

Document 19: [Deleted], Subject: Memo to SECDEF, DCI: Changing the NRO to an Overt Organization, July 27, 1992. Classification Not Available.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This memo came with the draft of a memo to the Secretary of Defense ( Richard Cheney) and Director of Central Intelligence (Robert Gates). It also provides a rundown of both key process and key substantive issues that have to be decided – with the latter including what organizational information should be declassified, the number of individuals to be identified as associated with the NRO, foreign reaction, and whether the “ fact of” overhead signals intelligence should be acknowledged.

Document 20: Martin C. Faga, Director, National Reconnaissance Office, Memorandum for Secretary of Defense, Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: Changing the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to an Overt Organization, July 30, 1992. Secret, w/att:

Attachment 1: Mission of the NRO

Attachment 2: Implications of the Proposed Changes (2 versions)

Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This is the memo that NRO director Faga actually signed to the Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence. In it, Faga notes the recommendation of the Fuhrman panel as well as the view of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in favor of declassification. Faga also provides his recommendations concerning changing the NRO to overt status. While some of his recommendations (a.-c., e., g.) were accepted, others (d., f, primarily concerning SIGINT) were not. Attachment 2 concerns the implications of the proposed changes in ten different areas.

Document 21: Martin C. Faga, Director, National Reconnaissance Office, Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Meetings with Secretary of Defense and Director of Central Intelligence Regarding Declassification of the National Reconnaissance Office, September 3, 1992. Top Secret BYEMAN Talent Keyhole, w/att: Declassification of the National Reconnaissance Office.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

In this memo, NRO Director Martin Faga recounts his September 2 meeting with Dick Cheney and Robert Gates concerning his desire to declassify the existence of the NRO. Faga lists those attending the meeting and the key points of his presentation. The views of other officials are redacted from the unclassified version.

Document 22: Director of Central Intelligence, Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, Subject: Declassification of Specified Information Relating to the National Reconnaissance Office, September 3, 1992. Top Secret Talent Keyhole.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This memorandum represents another step in the declassification process – with the DCI informing the Secretary of Defense of information about the NRO that “no longer requires ... protection” and recommending declassification of that information.

Document 23: Dennis M. Drummond, Inspector General, Memo for [Deleted], Subject: NRO Personnel Disclosure Issue, September 8, 1992. Secret, w/att: Col. Dennis M. Drummond, Memo for: [Deleted], Subject: NRO Personnel Disclosure Issue, September 8, 1992, Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The attached memo focuses on the guidance that should be given to NRO personnel with regard to the upcoming declassification.

Document 24: Deputy General Counsel, CIA, Note for: Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: Memorandum Re NRO Reclassification, September 15, 1992. Classification Not Available, w/att: Robert M. Gates, Memorandum for: The Secretary of Defense, Subject: Declassification of Specified Information Relating to the National Reconnaissance Office, September 15, 1992. Classification Not Available.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The memo attached to the General Counsel’s memorandum represents the two final internal steps in the declassification process. The letter from Robert Gates to Dick Cheney specifies exactly what information about the NRO Gates believes should be declassified. Added to the letter is the Acting Secretary of Defense’s formal declaration, on September 17, that the information specified was declassified. 

Document 25: Memorandum To All NRO Personnel, Subject: Personal Profiles Authorized for the Initial Overt NRO Period, September 15, 1992. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This memo provides interim guidance to NRO government personnel with regard to their “ personal profiles” during the first days of an overt NRO. Issues discussed include acknowledgment (or lack thereof) with regard to affiliation with the NRO, as well as what entrances NRO personnel should use to avoid detection by the media.

Document 26: David S. Addington, to Honorable Thomas S. Foley, n.d. Top Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This letter, in draft form, from Department of Defense General Counsel David Addington to Speaker of the House Thomas S. Foley, explains the purpose and specifics of legislation – the National Reconnaissance Office Security Act – desired by NRO and the Department of Defense. It would exempt the NRO from legal requirements, including the Freedom of Information Act, to provide information about its organization, its functions, as well as NRO files documenting foreign intelligence collection activities. Ultimately, the act was not introduced but the NRO did subsequently receive an exemption from having to search its “operational files” in response to FOIA requests.               

Document 27: Department of Defense, Memorandum for Correspondents No. 264-M, September 18, 1992. Unclassified.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This is the memo that announced the declassification of the existence of the NRO and provided the sum total of declassified information as of that date. Comparison of the release to some of the preparatory  memos ( e.g. Document 20), indicates a number of items of information that had been considered for declassification – including information on organization and the identities of directorate chiefs – but that were not declassified at first.

Document 28a: [Deleted], Mr. Faga To: NRO Contractor Personnel, Subject: Declassification of Fact of Existence of National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), September 18, 1992. Secret.

Document 28b: [Deleted], Mr. Faga, To: NRO Government Personnel, Subject: Declassification of Fact of Existence of National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), September 18, 1992. Secret.

Document 28c: Martin C. Faga, Memorandum for NFIB Principals, Subject: Declassification of Fact of Existence of National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), September 18, 1992. Secret.

Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

These three memos were sent shortly before the public announcement of the declassification of the NRO’s existence . They were directed at different audiences to assist them in dealing with the expected  reactions to the move.  The memos specify what information will be declassified and seek to prevent other disclosures and security lapses.

Document 29: Martin C. Faga, Memorandum to All NRO Personnel, Subject: Personal Identification Policy During the Initial Acknowledgment of the NRO, September 18, 1992. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This memo from the NRO Director advises all personnel that, despite the declassification of the NRO’s existence, their affiliation with the NRO should, at least initially, continue to constitute Sensitive Compartmented Information. They should continue, Faga instructs, to publicly acknowledge only their links to their parent organizations (e.g. Air Force, Army, Navy).

Document 30: SecState, Washington, D.C., To: All Diplomatic Posts, Subject: Declassification of Existence of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), September 18, 1992. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This cable from the Secretary of State to U.S. diplomatic posts announces the declassification of the NRO, provides the text of the declassification announcement, and cautions recipients that responses to queries should be restricted to the information in the release.

Document 31: NRO, Implementation Activities for Declassifying the Existence of the NRO, September 29, 1992. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

This report provides a summary of actions to be taken in implementing the decision to declassify the existence of the NRO. The report summarizes actions with regard to key events, congressional liaison, public affairs announcements, domestic notification, foreign notification, and internal preparations.

Document 32: Transmittal Letter, From: NRO [Deleted], To: [Deleted], Secret, w/att: Briefing, Declassification of the Existence of the NRO, n.d. Secret.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Request

The briefing attached to the transmittal letter, consisting of both slides and associated text, provides an overview, an explanation of  the declassification initiative (what it is, what it isn’t, and why), why information is being protected, security objectives, “how does it affect you,” classified operations guidance, the potential for increased exposure of classified information, and what must be protected.


Notes

1. “Reconnaissance Satellite Program,” Action No. 1-b at Special NSC Meeting on August 25, 1960, transmitted to the Secretary of Defense by memo of 1 September 1960; G.B. Kistiakowsky to Allen Dulles, August 15, 1960, Special Assistant for Science and Technology, Box 15, Space [July-Dec 1960], Dwight David Eisenhower Library (DDEL); Secretary of the Air Force Order 115.1, “Organization and Functions of the Office of  Missile and Satellite Systems,” August 31, 1960; Secretary of the Air Force Order 116.1, “The Director of the SAMOS Project,” August 31, 1960.

2. “USAF Strengthens SAMOS Effort,” Aviation Week, September 12, 1960; Telephone Directory, Department of Defense (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, April 1961), p. C-81; Memorandum for Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Subject: SAMOS Program, October 21, 1960; G.B. Kistiakowsky, Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Notes on Meeting with President, 9:30 a.m., September 28, 1960.

3. Roswell L. Gilpatric, Deputy Secretary of Defense to Allen W. Dulles, Director of Central Intelligence, Re: Management of the National Reconnaissance Program, September 6, 1961; Robert Perry, A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Volume 5: Management of the National Reconnaissance Program, 1960-1965 (Washington, D.C.: NRO, 1969), pp. 40-42.

4. Arthur Sylvester, Memorandum for the President, The White House, Subject: SAMOS II Launch, 26 January 1961; Director of Central Intelligence, SNIE 100-6-60, “Probable Reactions to US Reconnaissance Satellite Programs,” August 9, 1960.

5. Memorandum for: [Deleted], Subject: National Reconnaissance Office Security Information, June 14, 1963, CIA CREST Collection, NARA II, College Park, Maryland. For other memos and directives on the secrecy attached to and history of the NRO, see National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book  No. 35, The NRO Declassified, September 27, 2000 available at www.nsarchive.org.

6. Interview with John McLucas, October 15, 1996.

7. See National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 231, Declassifying the “Fact of” Satellite Reconnaissance, October 1, 2007, available at www.nsarchive.org.

8. Stansfield Turner, “Intelligence for a New World Order,” Foreign Affairs, 70, 4 (Fall 1991), pp. 150-166 at p.150n1.

9. See www.nro.gov/organization.htm and www.nro.gov/foia/foia_req.html.

 

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