from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 28
March 24, 2008

Secrecy News Blog:


The State Department last month published four new volumes of its official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, documenting the foreign relations of the Nixon Administration:

Inevitably, it seems, the occasional error creeps in.

Document 13 of the China volume transcribes a February 18, 1973 conversation between Chinese Premier Chou En-lai and Henry Kissinger in which Chou cited press reports that "the United States had contacts with Ismail" (on page 148). The FRUS editors inserted Footnote 3 explaining that "Ismail Fahmi was the Egyptian Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1973 until 1977." That's true, but that's not who Premier Chou was talking about. "It is common knowledge that Chou was referring to Sadat's national security adviser -- Hafez Ismail," wrote A, a Secrecy News correspondent.


The authority of a military commander to arrest and detain U.S. civilians suspected of committing a crime outside of the United States and within that commander's area of responsibility is detailed in a recent memorandum from Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

"There is a particular need for clarity regarding the legal framework that should govern a command response to any illegal activities by Department of Defense civilian employees and DoD contractor personnel overseas with our Armed Forces," Secretary Gates wrote.

Ordinarily, civilians who violate U.S. criminal laws are to be prosecuted by the Department of Justice and commanders are to notify DoJ whenever such cases arise.

However, the Gates memo states, "Commanders should be prepared to act, as appropriate, should possible U.S. federal criminal jurisdiction prove to be unavailable to address the alleged criminal behavior."

See "UCMJ Jurisdiction Over DoD Civilian Employees, DoD Contractor Personnel, and Other Persons Serving With or Accompanying the Armed Forces Overseas During Declared War and in Contingency Operations," memorandum from the Secretary of Defense, March 10, 2008:

The memorandum was previously reported by Sebastian Sprenger in


The functions and responsibilities of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) are detailed in a 27-page directive that has been newly re-issued by the Department of Defense.

"DIA shall satisfy the military and military-related intelligence requirements of the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the DNI, and provide the military intelligence contribution to national foreign intelligence and counterintelligence."

See "Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)," DoD Directive 5105.21, March 18, 2008:


A whimsical collection of patches, emblems and insignia associated with classified Department of Defense programs has recently been published in a book by experimental geographer Trevor Paglen.

"Readers of this book will find a collection of images that are fragmentary, torn out of context, inconclusive, enigmatic, unreliable, quixotic, and deceptive," the author warns. "Readers will find, in other words, a glimpse into the black world itself."

See "I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon's Black World" by Trevor Paglen, Melville House Publishing, March 2008.

"Military patches and logos--simply the latest examples of heraldry dating back thousands of years--are by definition symbolic, so it is no surprise that they contain symbols. What is surprising is that these symbols often reveal information about ... missions that are otherwise classified," wrote space historians Dwayne A. Day and Roger Guillemette in an impressive analysis of several such images. See their "Secrets and Signs" in The Space Review, January 7, 2008:

Wired's Danger Room blog recently featured some of the "Most Awesomely Bad Military Patches":


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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