Nuclear Weapons

NRO Releases Compendium of Declassified Data

06.07.07 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The National Reconnaissance Office, the U.S. intelligence agency that builds and operates spy satellites, has released a redacted version of its declassification guide (pdf) for review of historical records that also provides a unique overview of the agency.

Although the primary purpose of the document is to assist official reviewers in the declassification process, it also serves as an authoritative compendium of declassified data regarding the NRO, which was established in 1961 and publicly acknowledged in 1992.

From organizational history to satellite programs to agency products and capabilities, the declassification guide itemizes the various “facts” in each category that are now declassified.

Valuable appendices identify key individual participants in the National Reconnaissance Program and provide a glossary of code words. Excerpting at random:

“The term ‘Area 58’ [may be released] when limited to the context of a very general association with the NRO, intelligence activities, imagery intelligence, or satellite reconnaissance but not revealing any geographic location information.”

“EVEN STEVEN” is “the code word associated with 29 U-2 flights in 1970 that overflew the Suez Canal ceasefire zone between Israel and Egypt.”

“ECI” stands for “Exceptionally Controlled Information,” which is “an NSA administrative COMINT flag.”

The document was declassified and released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from researcher Michael Ravnitzky, who kindly provided a copy to Secrecy News.

See “National Reconnaissance Office Review and Redaction Guide for Automatic Declassification of 25-Year-Old Information,” 2006 edition (165 pages, 6.5 MB PDF file).

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