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The CIA and Signals Intelligence

Formerly Top-Secret Multi-Volume History Details Spy Agency’s Conflicts with NSA and Military over SIGINT Role

Additional Declassified Documents Describe CIA Domestic and Foreign SIGINT Activity

CIA Role Often Put It in Direct Competition with NSA, but Recent Cooperation Made Possible Controversial Exploits Uncovered by Edward Snowden

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 506

Compiled and edited by Jeffrey T. Richelson

Posted March 20, 2015

For more information contact:
202/994-7000, nsarchiv@gwu.edu

The Wizards Of Langley: Inside The Cia's Directorate Of Science And Technology
By Jeffrey T Richelson, Basic Books; Reprint edition (December 5, 2002)


Related Links

Science, Technology and the CIA
August 5, 2013

Lifting the Veil on NRO Satellite Systems and Ground Stations
October 4, 2012

Out of the Black: The Declassification of the NRO
September 18, 2008

The CIA's Family Jewels
June 26, 2007


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Cover to The History of SIGINT in the Central Intelligence Agency, 1947-1970, Document 16.

Washington, DC, March 20, 2015 – For decades the Central Intelligence Agency has conducted a major signals intelligence (SIGINT) effort that often placed it in competition with other members of the Intelligence Community, according to a significant collection of declassified documentation posted today by the National Security Archive (www.nsarchive.org). As described in a previously Top-Secret multi-volume history of the CIA's role from 1947-1970 — obtained by the Archive through the Freedom of Information Act — the CIA regularly struggled with not only Soviet counterintelligence and international upheavals like the Iranian revolution but overlapping missions and domestic budgetary battles with the National Security Agency (NSA) and other entities during the height of the Cold War.

Among the CIA's successes described in the documents that make up today's posting was the creation of the RHYOLITE geosynchronous satellite program which allowed continuous coverage of missile telemetry and targets in Eurasia. Agency operatives were also able to tap into radio-telephone communications of Communist leaders as they rode in limousines around Moscow, to track Soviet missile launches from two secret stations inside the Shah's Iran, and to intercept Warsaw Pact communications from a tunnel dug under East Berlin.

These achievements were not without bureaucratic costs. The RHYOLITE program raised hackles at both the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which oversaw much of U.S. satellite intelligence activity, and the NSA, whose personnel initially found themselves cut out of the program. Overseas, the Soviet limo bugging ended after a news report disclosed it and may also have led to the execution of the Soviet agent who installed the listening devices. After the Shah fled Iran during the 1979 revolution, the founders of the Islamic Republic quickly seized the two sensitive US monitoring sites, handing a major loss to American intelligence.

These and other aspects of the CIA's long involvement with SIGINT are described in over forty documents obtained by Archive Senior Fellow Jeffrey Richelson through Freedom of Information Act requests, archival research, and other websites.

The documents include:

  • The History of SIGINT in the Central Intelligence Agency, 1947-1970 (Document 16)
  • Guidelines governing the CIA acquisition and retention, via COMINT, of information on U.S. persons, including the one prepared in response to President Obama's presidential directive on signals intelligence (Document 43)
  • A note from the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) concerning the need to improve the CIA's ability to employ audio surveillance devices in pursuit of foreign intelligence (Document 6)
  • Several items from different decades discussing the CIA-NSA relationship, and covering topics as diverse as the SIGINT provided by NSA to CIA, and CIA human intelligence support to NSA (Documents 27, 28, 30, 31, 34, 36, 38)
  • Memos and an extract from an official concerning the CIA's RHYOLITE signals intelligence satellite program, including the ongoing conflict with the NSA and National Reconnaissance Office over the program (Documents 8, 10, 11, 13)
  • A memo written by DCI Stansfield Turner concerning a discussion with Secretary of Defense Harold Brown about modifying a satellite to replace some of the capability lost with the closure of the CIA's TACKSMAN sites in Iran (Document 32)
  • Memos prepared in response to the CIA's Family Jewels inquiries, including one indicating testing of a U-2 carried COMINT system (LONG SHAFT ) in the United States (Document 21)


* * * * *

The CIA and Signals Intelligence

By Jeffrey T. Richelson

While the National Security Agency (NSA) and its military components are at the center of U.S. signals intelligence (SIGINT) activities they are not the only components of the U.S. Government that conduct such operations.1 Three Justice Department entities intercept communications for law enforcement and/or intelligence purposes — the Federal Bureau of Investigation (thru its Data Intercept Technology Unit), the Drug Enforcement Administration (via its Office of Investigative Technology), and the U.S. Marshals Service (specifically, its Technical Operations Group).2

But it is the Central Intelligence Agency that, for decades, has conducted a parallel — sometimes complementary, sometimes competitive — signals intelligence effort with NSA. Components of the history of CIA SIGINT activities include, but are not limited to, organizational issues, audio surveillance and cable tapping, ground stations, aerial collection, space-based SIGINT, the CIA-NSA relationship, the creation and operation of the Special Collection Service, and legal controversies and privacy issues.



CIA headquarters, Langley, Virginia.

The CIA's signals intelligence effort has, in one way, come full circle since its inception — inasmuch as the CIA's efforts were originally conducted by part of an office with a larger mission and today are carried out by another office with a broader mission. Thus, until the formation of the Deputy Directorate for Research in 1962 and the creation of the Office of ELINT (Document 17, Document 24) there was no central office charged with managing the agency's electronic intelligence effort. Instead, ELINT activities could be found in the Office of Communications, (Document 1) and several other agency components.

One of those components that continued in operation after the creation of the ELINT office was Division D (Document 2) — an element of the Plans directorate's Foreign Intelligence Staff — which had been established to serve as conduit for the transmission of communications intelligence from NSA to the CIA. Other components that would be involved in SIGINT operations included the Office of Special Activities (1962-1974) — which was responsible for agency U-2 missions, some of which engaged in ELINT collection (Document 4) — as well as two offices that developed satellite reconnaissance systems (the Office of Special Projects, established in 1965, and the Office of Development and Engineering, which replaced the special projects office in 1965 and was disestablished in 2012.)

OEL remained a component of the Directorate of Science & Technology (which replaced the Research directorate in August 1963) until February 1977, when it and Division D were merged to form the Office of SIGINT Operations (OSO). Then in August 1993, OSO (Document 33) was merged with the second Office of Special Projects that had been established in 1988 to handle measurement and signature intelligence projects - to form the Office of Technical Collection (OTC), which remains in existence as of today.


Audio Surveillance & The Berlin Tunnel

Although much signals intelligence is gathered through remote collection, the CIA has also relied on an assortment of operations that gain direct access to a communications link or to a location where conversations of interest are taking place. A study on clandestine collection in Latin America during the 1960s reported that the CIA had managed to install audio devices in the homes of many key personnel and those devices had produced much of the CIA's intelligence on the region. During the 1970s, one target of CIA audio devices was Nguyen Van Thieu, President of South Vietnam. Presents given to Thieu by the CIA — including television sets and furniture — came equipped with audio devices. The agency also attempted to install devices in the office and living quarters of the South Vietnamese observer to the Paris Peace Talks.3

A Soviet officer inspects intercept equipment in a tunnel under East Berlin used by the CIA in the 1950s. (Photo - German Federal Archive)

Several years before those operations, the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board had examined CIA efforts with regard to development and use of audio surveillance devices, reporting (Document 6) to President Kennedy that "the limited capabilities of present equipment have precluded the [CIA] from successful audio surveillance penetration of intelligence countries within the Soviet bloc" and that "the full potentialities of audio surveillance for intelligence purposes have not been thoroughly explored as a major scientific undertaking." The board made several recommendations - including that the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency jointly conduct an operational analysis of "existing and potential use of audio surveillance as an intelligence collection technique" and "estimate the results which might be expected, within defined dollar limitations." The President approved the board's recommendations.

Years earlier, a much more elaborate effort was conducted by the CIA when it tapped three Soviet and East German communications cables from a tunnel under the Soviet sector in Berlin — which became the subject of a Clandestine Services history (Document 15). The project, codenamed PBJOINTLY, commenced in 1952 and was planned by individuals from a number of CIA components — including the chief of Division D. Construction of the tunnel was completed in late February 1955. The operation ran for eleven months and eleven days until Soviet forces "discovered" the tunnel on April 21, 1956.

Information from the intercepted material was disseminated via a control system designated REGAL. The Clandestine Services history identified an assortment of political, military, scientific, and operational intelligence derived from the intercepts — including details of the Soviet program to implement the decisions of the 20th Party Congress (including measures to suppress unrest among Soviet nuclear scientists), the doubling of Soviet bomber strength in Poland, the organization of the Soviet Baltic Fleet headquarters, the location of approximately one hundred Soviet air force installations in the USSR, and identification of several hundred individuals associated with the Soviet atomic energy program.

Soviet discovery of the tunnel appeared to result from unfortunate circumstances related to weather. But subsequently it was learned that George Blake, an officer with the British Secret Intelligence Service with knowledge of the operation, had been under Soviet control since 1952, when he was a prisoner in North Korea. However, the KGB, in order not to risk revealing Blake's treason, refrained from interfering with the operation until a plausible alternative excuse presented itself. Nor did they try to insert disinformation into the tapped communications cables due to concerns over the number of people who would learn of such an operation.4


Ground Stations

CIA intercept operations have also involved funding foreign ground stations as well as operating their own. Norway began operating SIGINT collection sites on behalf of the CIA in 1955. For the 1966-1967 fiscal year the CIA budgeted part of $104,000 to replace one of the principal ELINT receivers at a Norwegian-operated site at Kirkenes (which had a subsidiary outpost, designated METRO, at Korpfjell). The sites intercepted communications, telemetry, and other electronic signals. Included were data on launches out of the White Sea, on air-to-air and air-to-ground missile launches, and on Soviet practice firings from the Barents Sea. The operation also provided COMINT coverage.5

But the most important sites operated by the CIA during the Cold War were located in Iran, and known as TACKSMAN I and TACKSMAN II. The first site, a telemetry intercept station, was established in the late 1950s in an ancient hunting castle at Beshahr (not to be confused with Bushehr, location of a well-known nuclear reactor on the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf), on the southeastern corner of the Caspian Sea — with the objective of collecting signals from the Tyuratam test range, which the CIA believed would become a major Soviet test facility.6

In 1965 and 1966, the Office of ELINT sought to improve its ability to monitor missile tests emanating from Tyuratam and antimissile activity at Sary Shagan. It established a second telemetry intercept station in northeastern Iran at Kabkan, forty miles east of Mashad. TACKSMAN II was only 650 miles southwest of Tyuratam. As did the Beshahr site, it had a communications intercept capability to permit monitoring of test range communications. The sites could do what no other U.S. intercept sites could do — monitor the last moments of the firing of a missile's first stage, resulting in a greater degree of confidence in determining missile dimensions and throw weight. At their peak, the Iranian stations provided about 85 percent of the hard intelligence the U.S. acquired on the Soviet ICBM program.7

President Jimmy Carter considered the sites sufficiently important that he told his ambassador to Iran, William Sullivan, that intelligence cooperation between the CIA and Iran should continue despite the Shah's poor human rights record. But in January 1979, the Shah, in the wake of escalating protests and riots, fled the country — and the sites were eventually seized by the new government. In the wake of that loss, the issue of finding alternatives to the sites became a priority. Thus, in late October 1979, Director of Central Intelligence Stansfield Turner and Secretary of Defense Harold Brown discussed (Document 32) financial and technical issues related to adding a telemetry intercept capability to an existing SIGINT satellite system — while preserving the existing missions.8


Aerial SIGINT Collection

CIA ELINT operations — often directed at gathering signals of foreign radar systems — also involved multiple aerial platforms. The U-2 spy plane, while predominantly used for photography, could also be equipped with intercept equipment. One U-2 mission (Document 4), flown on January 16, 1961, took the aircraft over the South China Sea, Laos, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam. Its ELINT receivers gathered signals from four different bands and "verified previous estimates of the number of long range P-band radars" in North Vietnam, and "the South and Southwest Air Defense Districts" of China.

In August 1965, the Office of ELINT was involved (Document 12) in evaluating modifications to the intercept equipment on a drone, designated LONG ARM, to gather data on the SA-2 surface-to-air missile and radar system employed by North Vietnam air defenses near Hanoi.

A particularly extensive CIA electronic intelligence activity was the 'Quality ELINT' effort (Document 14) — which employed a variety of specially-equipped aircraft to gather data on radars operated by the Soviet Union, China, East Germany, and Cuba. Thus, between August 1963 and October 1966, a combination of Air Force RB-47H, C-97, and C-135 aircraft conducted seventeen missions carrying OEL's Power and Pattern Measurement System (PPMS). The PPMS gathered data on the Tall King, Spoon Rest, Knife Rest, Bar Lock, Fan Song, Hen House, and Knife Rest radars.



Pine Gap SIGINT site, Alice Springs, Australia. (Photo - Open Source)

Not long after becoming head of the Directorate of Science and Technology in August 1963, Albert Wheelon was reading a story in the New York Herald Tribune about the Syncom II satellite program. The article discussed what was then a revolutionary means of communications, first suggested by science and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, that allowed communications far beyond the horizon. Signals were transmitted from a ground station to a satellite and then back down to another ground station.9

The Syncom satellites flew 22,300 miles above various points on the equator — in geostationary orbit. At that altitude and location, the satellites revolved around the earth at the same speed as the earth turned on its axis. In effect, they hovered over a single point on the equator. In addition, at their high altitude, about one-third of the earth was in view of each satellite. It occurred to Wheelon that it might be possible to employ such an approach to intercept telemetry signals emitted during Soviet missile tests — "the number one U.S. intelligence priority" at the time, according to a NSA historian (Document 33) — and relay them to a ground station.10

On September 23, an official of the Office of Special Activities noted (Document 8) that "the existence and success of Syncom II represents a significant intelligence collection opportunity." Wheelon assembled some key CIA officials to explore such ideas. Possibly as a result of that exploration, the same OSA official produced another memo (Document 10) that asserted "it is technically feasible to develop a synchronous satellite capable of the missions described" in a document reviewed by the author and that "it will press the state of the art." He also asserted that "it is important that we proceed with the basic study as a first step in a cost effectiveness review."11

The program to develop such a satellite, designated RHYOLITE, became another battle in the prolonged secret war between Wheelon and Brockway McMillan, the director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) - who had something to say about the program since it would be conducted as part of Program B, the CIA component of the NRO, and funded through the reconnaissance office's budget. In a memo to Wheelon (Document 11, Document 39) in early November 1964, McMillan raised a number of objections to the effort, including that the Soviets could take defensive action to deny information to the U.S., and that the intercepts could be achieved by building "a covert, and relatively inexpensive, element of a satellite openly developed for other purposes" — which could include weather monitoring or communications relay.

McMillan's opposition continued through his departure from the NRO. In his exit memorandum of September 30, 1965 (Document 13), addressed to the secretary of defense, he wrote that "it is hard for me to believe" that the project "would justify so large an expense. In addition, he complained that "no alternative collection schemes were compared." Despite his opposition the RHYOLITE program (subsequently renamed AQUACADE) would produce four successful missions, beginning in June 1970.12


The CIA-NSA Relationship

Not only was RHYOLITE an issue between the CIA and NRO, it was also a source of acrimony between the CIA and NSA. According to an official NSA history (Document 33), "CIA cleared no one at NSA" with regard to RHYOLITE and that only changed in the summer of 1965 when General Marshall Carter, who had been serving as deputy director of central intelligence, became director of NSA and arranged "to clear a handful of NSA people and sent them to CIA to learn about the [RHYOLITE] program." The history goes on to state that "the road proved rocky in the extreme" since the "CIA wanted no NSA participation at all, and in the early months did a great deal to shut NSA out." Eventually, a truce was reached and CIA accepted NSA's suggestion that communications intelligence become a secondary mission of RHYOLITE satellites.

The RHYOLITE program was not the first or last time that the CIA-NSA relationship would be a matter of concern at either the high- or working-levels of DoD, CIA, or Congress. Indeed, the conflict between the U.S. central intelligence organization and its SIGINT collector(s) went back to World War II — before there was even a CIA or NSA. And once there was a CIA, it had to fight for access to COMINT (Document 16).

In February 1963, after both the CIA and NSA had long been established, the DoD deputy director for defense research and engineering wrote (Document 7) to Roswell Gilpatric, Robert McNamara's deputy, noting his desire to determine DCI John McCone's "feelings concerning the functioning and adequacy of management within NSA" and wondering whether Gilpatric had "any words of approbation" for NSA's director.

In June 1976, E. H. Knoche, the deputy director of central intelligence, wrote (Document 26) NSA director Lew Allen that it was his "strong belief that it is in our mutual interest to move rapidly toward a harmonious and lasting understanding between our two agencies in the SIGINT area." He added that toward that end he was commissioning a task force to determine the best ways to bring about such an understanding.

Two months later, the chairman of the task force reported (Document 27) to Sayre Stevens, head of the CIA's intelligence directorate, that he had visited several CIA analytical offices and heard several complaints. Objections included, but were not limited to, "NSA gists are not complete enough and sometimes miss the important points, to be found in the raw transcript;" "NSA analysis is incomplete, unreferenced and often indiscriminately mixes SIGINT and collateral;" and "NSA quite often refuses to provide transcripts or 'technical data.'" The chairman also reported that "almost everyone agreed" that it would be useful to station an NSA liaison team at CIA.

That same month, a memo (Document 28) to the CIA's assistant comptroller for requirements and evaluation examined the evolution of the CIA-NSA relationship. It noted that "in its early years NSA looked respectfully and appreciatively to CIA for guidance as to what it should collect and produce" but that "as time passed and its budget double, tripled, and quadrupled, NSA began to swell its corporate chest and develop a personality and style of its own." The memo noted that if the SIGINT task force concluded the Agency had an important role to play in the SIGINT field "it will require vigorous, imaginative and unified action ... especially at the top, to convince Congressional and other critics of the rightness of our cause."

Over the next thirteen months various aspects of the CIA's SIGINT activities were addressed by senior officials. In September 1976, DDCI Knoche wrote (Document 29) to Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Ellsworth concerning CIA compliance with an executive order pertaining to SIGINT activities and noted the existence of "certain legal limitations and authorities unique to CIA." Around June 1977, DCI Stansfield Turner inquired (Document 30) whether any limitations could be placed on the foreign intelligence information provided to him by NSA. That fall, Turner wrote (Document 31) to the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, George H. Mahon, noting that an interagency SIGINT agreement had been signed between the director of NSA and the deputy director of central intelligence in January and that he had received a copy of the implementation plan produced by the NSA director and the DDCI. He went on to provide some specifics about the plan, including that it gave the NSA director "review and approval authority of the CIA SIGINT program."

In more recent years, a key aspect of the CIA-NSA relationship has centered around the changes in communications technology — the movement away from remote transmission (including via satellite or microwave) toward cable-carried communications. Thus, in 1999, the NSA's deputy director for operations noted (Document 36) that one reason for strengthening the NSA's strategic alliances was the increased importance of CIA HUMINT support to NSA operations — support which was undoubtedly a factor in many of the NSA successes described in the documents leaked by Edward Snowden.13 Similarly, a 2004 article (Document 38) in the CIA's in-house journal Studies in Intelligence noted that subsequent to the 9/11 attacks, NSA was "moving their strategic partnership ... into a new era of collaboration."


The Special Collection Service & Gamma Gupy

Headquarters of the joint CIA-NSA Special Collection Service, just north of Washington DC. (Photo from Cryptome.org)

The interagency SIGINT agreement noted by Turner in his letter (Document 31) to appropriations committee chairman George Mahon followed an investigation of NSA and CIA SIGINT activities orchestrated by a senior committee staffer. The resulting agreement was referred to in an official NSA history (Document 35) as the "Peace Treaty."

Redacted from the declassified version of that history was the discussion of one important consequence of that treaty — the merger of the CIA embassy-based eavesdropping efforts managed by the Office of SIGINT Operations (since it absorbed Division D in the 1977 merger with OEL) with those of the NSA. The result was a new joint operation designated the Special Collection Service (SCS), with headquarters separate from either the CIA or NSA. While the existence of the SCS is not classified, all details of its mission are. The SCS was a subject of a leaked briefing (Document 41) to the Pacific SIGINT Development conference in March 2011. By 2010 there were 96 SCS sites around the world, including 74 manned location, and 14 unmanned remote sites.14

One pre-SCS embassy-eavesdropping operation was designated GAMMA GUPY, and involved, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, intercepting the radio-telephone conversations of Soviet Politburo members - including General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, President Nikolai Podgorny, and Premier Alexei Kosygin - as they drove around Moscow. Originally no attempt had been made to scramble or encipher the conversations. After columnist Jack Anderson disclosed the operation in 1971, the Soviets began enciphering their limousine telephone calls to plug leaks. Despite that effort, the United States was able to intercept and decipher a conversation between Brezhnev and Minister of Defense A.A. Grechko that took place shortly before the signing of the SALT I Treaty. Grechko assured Brezhnev that the heavy Soviet SS-19 missiles under construction could fit inside the launch tubes of lighter SS-11 missiles, making the missiles permissible under the SALT treaty. In general the intelligence was not earthshaking but did, according to a former intelligence official, provide "extremely valuable information on the personalities of top Soviet leaders."15

According to a document (Document 42) produced by the National Counterintelligence Executive (NCIX), a component of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the operation involved a CIA asset — a mechanic who worked on the limousines. The CIA, according to the NCIX, lost contact with the asset after the Jack Anderson article appeared in the Washington Post on the operation. The asset "was never heard from again and presumed killed."


The Family Jewels and Legal Issues

Cover page of Document 18.

Fourth Amendment protections with regard to electronic surveillance as well as general concerns over government eavesdropping have meant that CIA communications intelligence activities, if they involve U.S. persons, have run the risk of either falling into the category of being "potentially embarrassing," illegal, or both. Thus, CIA COMINT activities were among the topics represented in the CIA "Family Jewels" collection, investigated by the Justice Department, and the subject of a number of guidelines documents.16

COMINT-related Family Jewels memos concerned CIA electronic surveillance operations directed against drug trafficking activities in South America (Document 18), Division D intercept operations carried out at a CIA communications facility (Document 19), and Project LONG SHAFT — described in the memo (Document 21) simply as a NSA/CIA COMINT collection activity, and elsewhere as a package to be flown on U-2 aircraft and employed to intercept microwave communications of foreign targets, including those in China. However, with regard to testing of the system against U.S. communications, the memo stated that "in the broad sense this activity could be labeled illegal" although to the CIA's knowledge "nothing sensitive was picked up." Another memo (Document 20), foreshadowing the more recent, post-Snowden debate over bulk collection of telephone metadata, reported that the CIA had asked an AT&T official for copies of telephone call slips relating to US-China calls but that the general counsel's office did not believe that request violated the Communications Act "since eavesdropping was not involved."17

The CIA electronic surveillance activities directed against drug trafficking operations in South America became the subject of an extensive 1976 report (Document 25) by the Department of Justice. It reported on those activities, purported sources of authority for those operations, possible violations, applicable laws and statutes, and possible defenses, then summarized the possible violations and defenses. The final section includes the recommendation that "the inquiry be terminated in all respects for lack of prosecutive potential."

As a means of avoiding either embarrassment to the CIA or indictment of personnel, the agency has produced a number of guidelines concerning CIA SIGINT activities. Thus, the 2002 and 2006 "minimization procedures" (Document 37, Document 40) specified, inter alia, when information about the identities of United States persons could be retained or disseminated outside the CIA. The most recent guidelines (Document 43) were promulgated in response to President Obama's January 2014 directive, "U.S. Signals Intelligence." The guidelines cover general policy, collection, the use of SIGINT collected in bulk (distinguishing between acceptable and unacceptable uses), retention and access, dissemination, compliance, and responsibilities. It gives the director of the CIA the authority to "approve any exception to any provision of this regulation that is not required by the Constitution or a statute."


CIA SIGINT and Secrecy

The history of the CIA's signals intelligence activities, even from decades earlier, is still often shrouded in secrecy - with much of that history either completely classified or with only small portions of those activities appearing in declassified documents. Some of that history, such as the origins of the Office of ELINT (Document 5, Document 16, Document 24), the Berlin Tunnel operation (Document 15), or the Quality ELINT program (Document 14), can be found in some detail in declassified documents. But, despite the small discussion of the TACKSMAN sites in one memo (Document 32), a much more detailed account — an article in the fall 1991 issue of Studies in Intelligence, "TACKSMAN: A SIGINT Success Story" — has been denied in its entirety in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. And no information about the CHESTNUT sites established in China in the wake of the loss of TACKSMAN, while reported in the press, appears to have been declassified. Likewise, while memos (Documents 8, 9, 10, 11, and 13) and portions of an official NSA history (Document 34) add to the history of the RHYOLITE program, that is largely because of reporting on the program in books and articles, which permit an understanding of what the redacted histories and memos are actually referring to. Similarly, without media reporting the Special Collection Service would either not be known to exist or its activities would largely be a mystery.18



Document 1: Office of Communications, CIA. "Statement of Missions and Functions, Office of Communications, Supplemental Programs Division, ELINT Activities Branch," n.d. Secret.

Source: CIA Records Search Tool (CREST), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) II, College Park.

Prior to the creation of an Office of ELINT, electronic intelligence activities were the responsibility of a branch of the Office of Communications. This document provides a statement of the missions and functions of that branch.


Document 2: [Deleted], (Acting) Inspector General, Memorandum for: Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: FE Division Survey, August 22, 1958. Classification Not Available.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

This memo refers to Division D, an organization first established to provide a conduit for the provision of communications intelligence to the CIA from the National Security Agency.


Document 3: Richard M. Bissell, Jr., Deputy Director (Plans), CIA, Memorandum, Subject: ELINT Requirements Requiring Sensitive Collection, September 9, 1958. Secret.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

This memo, from the CIA deputy director for plans, notes NSA's desire that CIA attempt to satisfy priority ELINT requirements that NSA or its military components cannot. Bissell notes CIA's approval and suggests creation of an ad hoc group to manage the process.


Document 4: Office of Scientific Intelligence, CIA, ELINT Report of Mission 3025, March 27, 1961. Top Secret.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

Although overhead photography was the primary objective of the U-2/IDEALIST program, the planes also could carry electronic intelligence packages. This OSI report concerns a U-2 mission over the South China Sea, Laos, South Vietnam and North Vietnam. The table of contents indicates the different bands from which signals were intercepted while the remainder of the report, after redactions, describes signals intercepted in the P-Band and conclusions that resulted.


Document 5: [Deleted], Chief, ELINT and Special Projects Division/SI, Memorandum for: Executive Officer/CIA, Subject: Discussions Between DD/P, DD/S, and DD/R ELINT Activities, circa June 13, 1962 w/att: Missions and Functions of DD/R (with respect to ELINT) and DD/S, DD/P, DD/R ELINT Activities Items for Discussion. Secret.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

In April 1962, Director of Central Intelligence John McCone established a Deputy Directorate for Research, in an attempt to consolidate the CIA's scientific and technical activities. Among the activities to be managed by the new directorate were the ELINT functions which were previously the responsibility of the DD/P and DD/Support. The two attachments to the memo provide a draft of a mission and functions statement for DD/R ELINT activities and subjects for discussion between three CIA directorates with regard to the transfer of ELINT activities to the DD/R.


Document 6: McGeorge Bundy, National Security Action Memorandum No. 170, Subject: Intelligence Collection Through Audio Surveillance (President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board), July 6, 1962, w/att: "Intelligence Collection Through Audio Surveillance," Top Secret.

Source: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Mandatory Declassification Review Release.

This National Security Action Memorandum from 1962 includes as an attachment the comments and recommendations of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board with regard to intelligence collection and audio surveillance. It reports on its conclusions with regard to the CIA effort as well recommending ways in which the intelligence take from such activities could be improved.


Document 7: Deputy Director of Research and Engineering, Memorandum for: Mr. Gilpatric, Subject: Some Items Concerning the NSA and CIA, February 18, 1963. Top Secret.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

Among the topics discussed in this memo are CIA involvement in the preparation of the Consolidated Cryptographic Program governing U.S. signals intelligence activities, as well as CIA-NSA relations.


Document 8: [Deleted], Chief, Programs Staff (Special Activities), Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Need for Synchronous Satellite, September 23, 1963. Classification Not Available.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

This is one of the earliest released memos that indicates CIA interest in a geosynchronous satellite. It would eventually lead to the RHYOLITE program whose objective was to deploy a satellite that would intercept telemetry from Soviet missile tests.


Document 9: Jack C. Ledford, Director, Program B, NRO, Memorandum for: [Deleteted], NRO Comptroller, Subject: Fiscal Year 1965 Funding Forecast, September 24, 1963. Classification Not Available.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

This memo indicates that the NRO requested, and the CIA delivered, a memo concerning its belief that there was a requirement for a geosynchronous satellite system.


Document 10: [Deleted], Chief Programs Staff (Special Activities), Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Synchronous Satellite, October 4, 1963. Secret .

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

This memo represents another step in the CIA's plan to develop a geosynchronous SIGINT satellite and notes key points from the referenced document (whose title is deleted). It comments on technical feasibility, the relationship of the planned effort to the state of the art, and CIA perception of where such an activity would fit into its role in the National Reconnaissance Program.


Document 11: Brockway McMillan, Director, NRO, Memorandum for Deputy Director, Science & Technology, CIA, Subject: Studies of Synchronous Satellites, November 5, 1964, Secret .

Source: NRO Freedom of Information Act Release.

This memo from Brockway McMillan to CIA science and technology director Albert Wheelon specified some of McMillan's objections to the CIA's plans to develop a geosynchronous satellite (RHYOLITE) to intercept Soviet missile telemetry. Some of the material redacted from this document can be found in Document 39.


Document 12: Chief, Plans for Field Activities, OSA, CIA, Memorandum for the Record, Subject: LONG ARM Drone Modifications, August 13, 1965. Secret/Idealist.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

This memo discusses modification of the intercept package on a drone used to collect data on a North Vietnamese SA-2 radar system and specifies what data would be gathered as a result of the modification.


Document 13: Brockway McMillan, Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense, Subject: Comments on NRO and NRP, September 30, 1965. Top Secret. Extract.

Source: NRO Freedom of Information Act Release.

This is another document that demonstrates NRO's repeated opposition to the RHYOLITE program (see Document 11, Document 39). The full document was McMillan's memo to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara at the time of his departure as NRO director. At the top of page 9 he notes his skepticism concerning the CIA effort and objects that other "collection schemes" were not considered.


Document 14: William H. Nance, "Quality ELINT," Studies in Intelligence, 12, 2 (Spring 1968). Secret.

Source: www.cia.gov.

This article from the CIA's internal journal focuses on the Office of ELINT's "quality ELINT" program, which involved flying a variety of aircraft to gather data on radars operated by the Soviet Union, East Germany, Cuba, and Vietnam.


Document 15: Central Intelligence Agency, The Berlin Tunnel Operation, 1952-1956, June 24, 1968. Secret.

Source: CIA Electronic Reading Room.

This history describes one of the CIA most famous efforts — the tapping of Soviet communications lines in Berlin between 1952-1956. It discusses the planning, implementation, and termination of the project as well as the product resulting from the operation.


Document 16: [Charles Collins], The History of SIGINT in the Central Intelligence Agency, 1947-1970, October 1971. Top Secret.

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act Release.

This multi-volume, heavily redacted, history contains some discussion of actual SIGINT collection activities, but devotes more attention to the CIA's access to COMINT, the SIGINT authorities of the agency and DCI, CIA organizational issues with regard to SIGINT, and the impact of review committees and Intelligence Community bodies responsible for managing aspects of SIGINT activity.


Document 17: [Deleted], The Directorate for Science and Technology, 1962-1970, Volume One, June 1972. Top Secret. Extract.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

This extract of a history of the DS&T discusses the formation of the Office of ELINT and some of its responsibilities.


Document 18: [Author Name Deleted], Acting Chief, Memorandum for: General Counsel, Subject: Intercept of Communications in the U.S., January 26, 1973. Secret.

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act Release.

This memo to the CIA's general counsel was prepared as part of the 'Family Jewels' effort and discussed CIA electronic surveillance operations directed at drug trafficking activities in South America and inquires about its legal status.


Document 19: Lawrence R. Houston, General Counsel, CIA, Memorandum for: Acting Chief, Division D, Subject: Intercept of Communications in the U.S., January 29, 1973. Classification Not Available.

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act Release.

In this memo, the CIA's general counsel responds to a request from the acting chief of Division D for his office's view of the legality of intercept operations carried out at a CIA communications site.


Document 20: "Prohibition against COMINT vs. US citizens," circa 1973. Secret.

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act Release.

This page appears in the CIA Family Jewels collection, without identification of author, component, or date. It notes several instances of CIA communications intercept activities that involved interception of U.S. citizen communications. It also notes that the CIA has asked an AT&T official for copies of telephone call slips relating to US-China calls but that the general counsel's office did not believe such actions violated the Communications Act "since eavesdropping was not involved."


Document 21: Wendell L. Bevan, Director of Special Activities, CIA, Memorandum for: Deputy Director for Science and Technology, Subject: Telecon this morning concerning any OSA activities which could put the Agency into an embarrassing situation, May 7, 1973. Top Secret.

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act Release.

This memo largely concerns activities other than signals intelligence with the exception of project LONG SHAFT — described as a NSA/CIA COMINT collection activity. It notes that "in the broad sense this activity could be labeled illegal" although to the CIA's knowledge "nothing sensitive was picked up."


Document 22: Chief, Division D, Memorandum for: Deputy Director of Operations, Subject: Potentially Embarrassing Activities Conducted by Division D, May 7, 1973. Secret.

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act Release.

This memo, from the chief of Division D, focuses on potentially embarrassing activities which included COMINT support for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, hearability tests in Miami, and the collection of US-China call slips. (See Document 17, Document 18, Document 19)


Document 23: [Author Name Deleted], Chief, Special Programs Division, Office of Communications, Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Summary, Special Programs Division (SPD), Office of Communications, Operational Contacts with Other U.S. Government Agencies, May 8, 1973. Top Secret.

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act Release.

This memo reveals that in addition to the COMINT activities conducted by components of the Directorate of Science and Technology, the Office of Communications, within the Directorate of Support, also maintained a communications intercept unit (the Special Programs Division) and provides details on the nature of the SPD's targets and activities.


Document 24: Wayne G. Jackson, Central Intelligence Agency, Allen Welsh Dulles as Director of Central Intelligence, 26 February 1953-29 November 1961, Volume II: Coordination of Intelligence, July 1973. Secret. Extract.

Source: Editor's Collection.

This extract from the official history of Allen Dulles' tenure as director of central intelligence, discusses the basics of ELINT and COMINT as well the creation of the agency's ELINT program and how the Intelligence Community's ELINT effort was managed.


Document 25: Department of Justice, Report on Inquiry into CIA-Related Electronic Surveillance Activities, 1976. Top Secret.

Source: Department of Justice Freedom of Information Act Release (to James Bamford)

This report is the product of the Department of Justice inquiry into the legality or illegality of CIA, NSA, and FBI electronic surveillance activities. It reported on those activities, purported sources of authority for the operations, possible violations, applicable laws and statutes, and possible defenses, then summarized the possible violations and defenses. The final section contains conclusions and recommendations, including the recommendation that "the inquiry be terminated in all respects for lack of prosecutive potential."


Document 26: E.H. Knoche, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, to Lieutenant General Lew Allen, Jr., No date, Confidential w/att: Draft, June 30, 1976.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

This letter from the deputy director of central intelligence to NSA Director Lew Allen informs him that he has established a CIA task force to explore how to "move rapidly toward a harmonious and lasting understanding between our two agencies in the SIGINT area." The letter goes on to describe the specific areas that the task force will examine and its need to consult with representatives of NSA.


Document 27: [Deleted] Chairman, SIGINT Task Force, Memorandum for: Dr. Sayre Stevens, Deputy Director for Intelligence, Subject: CIA Analysts and NSA, August 12, 1976. Secret.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

In this memo to Sayre Stevens, deputy director for intelligence, the chairman of the SIGINT Task Force (Document 26) provides preliminary findings, based on visits with a number of CIA analytical offices. It notes a number of complaints, "with varying degrees of emphasis," by CIA analysts as well as a possible means of addressing their concerns.


Document 28: [Deleted], Requirements & Evaluation, Office of the Comptroller, CIA, Memorandum for: Assistant Comptroller, Requirements and Evaluation, Subject: The CIA/NSA Relationship, August 20, 1976. Top Secret.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

The author describes changes in the CIA-NSA relationship and the reasons perceived to be responsible for the changes. He (or she) also observes and discusses the lack of "a full appreciation for the understanding within the Agency of the scope and accomplishments within the SIGINT field."


Document 29: [Author Deleted], A/DDCI, Note for: Mr. Knoche, Subject: Response to Deputy Secretary of Defense Ellsworth on Relationship of NSA SIGNT Procedures to CIA, September 20, 1976 w/att: E.H. Knoche, DDCI, to Honorable Robert Ellsworth, September 22, 1976. Confidential.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

The attachment to the note for DDCI Knoche discusses CIA compliance with the guidance of United States Signals Intelligence Directive-18, governing collection and retention of communications intelligence concerning U.S. persons. It notes the existence of separate guidelines for NSA and CIA.


Document 30: Anthony A. Lapham, General Counsel, CIA, Memorandum for: Director of Central Intelligence, Subject: [Deleted] Limitations Upon DCI Access to NSA Intercept Materials, June 17, 1977. Top Secret.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

This memo provides a response to a query from DCI Stansfield Turner concerning whether NSA could limit any foreign intelligence provided to Turner and whether any foreign intelligence information could be provided by NSA to other government officials but not to the DCI.


Document 31: Stansfield Turner, Director of Central Intelligence, letter to George H. Mahon, Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, September 8, 1977. Top Secret.

Source: CREST, NARA, College Park.

In his letter to the House Appropriations Committee chairman, DCI Turner discusses the status of the effort to produce "closer integration and coordination of the CIA SIGINT Program with the National SIGINT Program planned and managed by the Director, NSA."


Document 32: Stansfield Turner, Director of Central Intelligence, Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Conversation with the Secretary of Defense, 25 October 1979, October 26, 1979.

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act Release.

The first item in this memorandum refers to action to replace the capability lost when two telemetry intercept sites in Iran (TACKSMAN I and TACKSMAN II) were closed due to the fall of the Shah — specifically modification of NRO COMINT satellites, known initially as CHALET and subsequently as VORTEX and MERCURY.


Document 33: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of SIGINT Operations, Directorate of Science and Technology, Central Intelligence Agency, 1990. Unclassified.

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act Release.

This recruitment brochure describes the mission and functions of the Office of SIGINT Operations, which replaced the Office of ELINT in 1977.


Document 34: Thomas R. Johnson, American Cryptology during the Cold War, 1945-1989, Book II: Centralization Wins, 1960-1972, 1995. Top Secret. Extract.

Source: NSA Mandatory Declassification Review Release.

This extract from an NSA official history concerns two aspects of CIA involvement in SIGINT. One was the competing NSA and CIA geosynchronous SIGINT programs — CHALET (whose unclassified designation was RUNWAY) and RHYOLITE (whose unclassified designation was RAINFALL). The second was the conflict between NSA and CIA over SIGINT relationships with foreign intelligence services.


Document 35: Thomas R. Johnson, American Cryptology during the Cold War, 1945-1989, Book III : Retrenchment and Reform, 1972-1980, 1998. Top Secret. Extract.

Source: NSA Mandatory Declassification Review Release.

The next volume in the NSA history (see Document 33) focuses, with heavy redactions, on the House Appropriations Committee's investigation of NSA and CIA SIGINT efforts and the resulting 'Peace Treaty.' That treaty was the basis for the merger of the NSA and CIA embassy-eavesdropping operations into the Special Collection Service (Document 39).


Document 36: James. R. Taylor, Deputy Director for Operations, National Security Agency, Memorandum, Subject: Thoughts on Strategic Issues for the Institution, April 9, 1999. Secret.

Source: NSA Freedom of Information Act Release.

This memorandum was written early in the tenure of NSA Director Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, when much attention was being directed to the requirement for NSA to adapt to a new environment — which included new targets, communications technologies, and the availability of advanced encryption techniques. One key issue identified in the memo was "strengthening and leveraging of [NSA's] strategic alliances" including its relationship with the CIA. It notes the increased importance of CIA human intelligence support to NSA operations.


Document 37: Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Minimization Procedures for Information From Electronic Surveillance and Physical Search Conducted by the FBI , May 10, 2002. Secret.

Source: www.nytimes.com.

This document describes the procedures employed by the CIA in dealing with information about United States persons obtained as the result of certain electronic surveillance and physical search operations. It specifies when information about the identities of United States persons can be retained or disseminated outside of the CIA.


Document 38: [Deleted], "A Brave New World," Studies in Intelligence, 48, 2 (2004), Classification Not Available.

Source: CIA Freedom of Information Act Release.

This article addresses the relationship between the CIA and NSA in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It notes the origins of CIA-NSA enmity going back to World War II, barriers that have existed to a partnership between the two agencies, hints of change in the late 1990s, and the impact of 9/11. Its final sections focus on tangible results, the likelihood that the partnership will last, and the challenges ahead.


Document 39: Robert L Butterworth, National Reconnaissance Office, QUILL: The First Imaging Radar Satellite, December 2004. Secret/Talent-Keyhole. Extract.

Source: National Reconnaissance Office Declassification Release.

Note 74 in this extract provides more detail on the contents of Brockway McMillan's November 5, 1964 memo (Document 11) expressing his opposition to the CIA RHYOLITE program.


Document 40: Central Intelligence Agency, CIA Minimization Procedures for Information From FISA Electronic Surveillance Conducted by NSA, December 13, 2006. Secret.

Source: www.nytimes.com.

This document updates the procedures specified in Document 37.

Document 41: National Security Agency, Special Collection Service, Presentation of the Pacific SIGDEV Conference, March 2011. Top Secret Comint.

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation (www.eff.org).

This NSA presentation discusses the organizational structure and activities of the Special Collection Service, formed from the merger of CIA and NSA embassy eavesdropping activities (Document 31, Document 35).


Document 42: Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, Unauthorized Disclosures of Classified Information (Text Alternative), September 11, 2011. Unclassified. Extract.

Source: www.publicintelligence.net.

This extract provides a new detail about the CIA's GAMMA GUPY operation — the intercept of radio-telephone communications of senior Soviet officials while they traveled in their limousines. That detail involved the existence of a CIA asset who worked on the limousines.


Document 43: Central Intelligence Agency, "Signals Intelligence Activities," February 3, 2015. Unclassified.

Source: www.cryptome.org.

Section 4 of Presidential Policy Directive-28 (PPD-28), "Signals Intelligence Activities," signed by President Barack Obama on January 17, 2014, focused on safeguarding personal information collected via signals intelligence and required that Intelligence Community elements update or issue new policies, within one year, to implement Section 4. This document is the CIA's response to that requirement.



[1] Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) encompasses communications intelligence (COMINT), electronic intelligence (ELINT), and foreign instrumentation signals intelligence (FISINT). COMINT is intelligence obtained through the interception, processing, and analysis of the electronic communications of foreign governments or organizations. ELINT involves collection of non-communications signals from military and civilian hardware, excluding those from nuclear detonations. ELINT is particularly associated with the collection of signals from radar systems. While logically a subcategory of ELINT, FISINT is considered by the Intelligence Community to be on a par with COMINT and ELINT, and includes intelligence obtained through gathering electromagnetic emissions associated with the testing and operations of aerial, space, surface, or subsurface systems. A subcategory of FISINT, Telemetry Intelligence (TELINT), is derived from intercepting the signals sent back by missiles or their components during testing. For further details see Jeffrey T. Richelson, The U.S. Intelligence Community (Boulder, Co.: Westview, 2011), pp. 203-208; Robert M. Clark The Technical Collection of Intelligence (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011), pp. 157-214. Also, see Document 24.

[2} Shane Harris, "Meet the Spies Doing the NSA's Dirty Work," http://foreignpolicy.com, November 21, 2013; United States Marshals Service, United States Marshals Service, FY 2014 Performance Budget, President's Budget - Salaries & Expenses and Construction Appropriations, April 2013, pp. 26-27; Office of Investigative Technology, Drug Enforcement Administration, Emerging Communications, April 8, 2010, available from www.eff.org.

[3] John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story (New York: Norton, 1978), p. 107; Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA (New York: Knopf, 1979), p. 198; Victor Marchetti and John Marks, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (New York: Knopf, 1974), p. 89.

[4] David E. Murphy, Sergei A. Kondrashev, and George Bailey, Battleground Berlin: CIA vs. KGB in the Cold War (New Haven, Ct.: Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 217-219.

[5] The remainder of the money went to "active an ELINT boat operation in the Barents Sea," which was targeted against Soviet naval operations. See Olav Riste, The Norwegian Intelligence Service, 1945-1970 (London: Frank Cass, 1999), pp. 149, 158; Rolf Tamnes, The United States and the Cold War in the High North (Oslo: Ad Notam, 1991), pp. 211-212.

[6] Jeffrey T. Richelson, The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology (Boulder, Co.: Westview, 2001), p. 33.

[7] Ibid., p. 88.

[8] The satellite to be modified was known as CHALET and subsequently VORTEX. See Richard Burt, "U.S. Plans New Way to Check Soviet Missile Tests," New York Times, June 29, 1979, p. A3.

[9] Interview with Albert Wheelon, Montecito, Ca., November 11-12, 1998; Thomas R. Johnson, American Cryptology During the Cold War, 1945-1989, Book II: Centralization Wins, 1960-1972 (Ft. Meade, Md.: Center for Cryptologic History, 1995), p. 409.

[10] In American Cryptology During the Cold War, 1945-1989, Book II, Johnson uses the term RAINFALL rather than RHYOLITE. RAINFALL was the unclassified, non-codeword, term for RHYOLITE.

11 [Deleted], Chief Programs Staff (Special Activities), Central Intelligence Agency, Memorandum for the Record, Subject: Synchronous Satellite, October 4, 1963. Secret.

[12] On the history of the RHYOLITE program, see Desmond Ball, Pine Gap: Australia and the US geostationary signals intelligence program (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1988); Richelson, The Wizards of Langley, passim.; Christopher Anson Pike, "CANYON, RHYOLITE, and AQUACADE: U.S. Signals Intelligence Satellites in the 1970s," Spaceflight 37,11 (November 1995), pp. 381-383.

[13] See Glenn Greenwald, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2014), pp. 145-147.

[14] National Security Agency, "vPCS to Deploy to 80 SCS Sites," August 13, 2010.

[15] Jack Anderson, "CIA Eavesdrops on Kremlin Chiefs," Washington Post , September 16, 1971, p. F7; Laurence Stern, "U.S. Tapped Top Russians' Car Phones," Washington Post, December 5, 1973, pp. A1, A16.

[16] On the Family Jewels, see John Prados, The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Power (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013); Thomas Blanton (ed.), National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book #222,The Family Jewels, June 26,2007, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB222/.

[17] Chris Pocock, 50 Years of the U-2: The Complete Illustrated History of the "Dragon Lady" (Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing, 2005), p. 272.

[18] On the China sites and SCS, see Richelson, The Wizards of Langley , pp. 210-211, 216-218, 222, 258-260; Patrick Tyler, A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China - An Investigative History (New York: Public Affairs, 1999), pp. 278, 284-285.


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The State Department Kissinger Telcons: The Story of a FOIA Request

January 20, 1977 - Henry Kissinger's last day in office as Secretary of State. He had stored his telephone call transcripts at Vice President Nelson Rockefeller's estate in Westchester County, but on threat of a lawsuit Kissinger deposited them at the Library of Congress. There he had made arrangements to preserve copies of his White House and State Department office files, which would be closed to the public until five years after his death.

March 3, 1980 - The Supreme Court announced its decision on a FOIA lawsuit filed by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press against Kissinger for copies of telcons created when he was National Security Adviser and Secretary of State. The Court ruled that the FOIA could not be used to recover records that were no longer under executive branch control. The Reporters Committee lacked standing to file the lawsuit and that under federal records laws only the U.S. Government could take legal action to recover the telcons. In his opinion on the case, Justice John Paul Stevens commented that the FOIA was relevant: "the fact that the documents had been removed by the head of the agency shortly before the expiration of his term of office raised an inference that the removal had been motivated by a desire to avoid FOIA disclosure."

January 25, 2001 - On behalf of the National Security Archive, pro bono counsel Lee Rubin and Craig Isenberg (of the Mayer Brown law firm) sent a draft complaint to the State Department and the National Archives arguing that they were in violation of federal records laws by allowing Kissinger to keep records that had been improperly removed from government agencies. During the following months, after meetings between the Archive's lawyers and agency representatives, including Legal Adviser of the State Department William Howard Taft IV, the Bush administration convinced Kissinger to return copies of all of the transcripts.

August 8, 2001: The Department of State announced that it had reached an agreement with Henry Kissinger to turn over copies of his telephone conversation transcripts to the National Archives and the Department of State.

August 10, 2001: The National Security Archive filed a FOIA request with the Department of State for declassification review and release of the Kissinger telcons from his Secretary of State years.

September 21, 2004: The State Department submitted its first substantive response to the Archive's FOIA request. Having broken up the case into sixteen segments, the Department released over 3500 documents in their entirety, excised over 340 and withheld in their entirety another 30. Hundreds of other documents were coordinated with other agencies (CIA, White House, etc.).

October-November 2004: The Archive filed appeals for the excised and exempted documents.

June 6, 2005: In response to the Archive's FOIA appeals, the State Department's Appeal Review Panel released 86 documents in whole or in part, including some of the previously exempted documents.

May 8, 2006: The State Department released 22 documents coordinated with other agencies, some of them excised.

June 11, 2007: The State Department released over 900 coordinated documents in full, excised over 200, and denied in their entirety over 870. Almost all of the denials and many of the excisions were on the basis of the "executive privilege" and/or "predecisional (b) (5) exemptions.

July 7, 2007: The Archive appealed the excisions and denials.

April 14, 2008: The State Department released 76 more coordinated documents, either in whole or in part.

April 24, 2008: The Archive appealed the latest excisions.

November 20, 2013: In response to the Archive's July 2007 appeal, the State Department released 76 documents, most in their entirety.

March 4, 2015: The National Security Archive filed a suit against the State Department challenging the unreasonable delay in processing the nearly 700 telcons denied since 2007.