By Guy Thomas
As all my friends know, I recently received permission to publish my autobiography after a 19-month long review by NSA, FBI, CIA, USAF, USN, USCG and the National Security Council (NSC). Yes, I had worked for or with all those agencies. But other than the USCG and the NSC, it was all “long ago and far away.”
There were a few (very few!) minor corrections, redactions, and deletions and I had no problem at all with most of them.
The notable excpetions in on page 267, where I was told to delete a quote of an UNCLASSIFIED paragraph from the Implementation Directive of the US’ National Space Policy (NSP), directing that the US create and lead a program to implement what I have called “Collaboration in Space for International Global Maritime Awareness” (C-SIGMA) since late 2005. While it is true the paragraph is from a SECRET document, the paragraph is very clearly marked with a (U), which means it is UNCLASSIFIED.
There is quite a history behind that paragraph and its marking, and that is the point of this column.
As I indicate in my draft autobiography, I actually wrote the original words of that paragraph in late October/early November of 2009 and was tasked to begin work on its implementation by the White House staff shortly thereafter. Indeed, I was told by several members of the team writing the new US NSP under the leadership of Rahm Emanuel, then Chief of Staff to POTUS, that he, Emanuel, considered the idea, that of the US creating a program to implement C-SIGMA, was the most unusual, useful, and innovative idea to come out of the entire process to draft the new NSP. The fact that it was Implementation Task #1 was NO accident.
That tasking paragraph had been in the UNCLASSIFIED portion of the draft document for several months, since before Christmas, 2009. The only change came early in the Spring when the first line was changed, over my objection, to read that a committee from several departments, including State, DoD, DHS, Transportation, Justice, and Commerce, would implement the task, rather than just Transportation, which already had a superb unclassified global maritime situation awareness plot called MarView with multiple input sources.
I and others had assessed the DoT system and ascertained it would be relatively easy to add data from space systems to that plot at very low cost, other than acquiring the data from the commercial satellite companies themselves. I had in fact met with the top leadership of the DoT (5 of the top 6) and had their full support, provided they did not have to self-fund the program. The White House staff, backed up by the members of the team from the DoD, DHS and the Intelligence Community (IC), had assured me that they all saw this system as being highly useful to them and were sure funding could and would be found.
So I was shocked and dismayed when I learned on 21 June, the date of the final review at the White House, that the tasking, my words, had been abruptly moved to the classified portion of the document just because they wanted to group all of the Implementation Tasks together.
It made more sense in the organization of the document, but not to me.
I immediately pointed out there at that meeting that marking it anything other than UNCLASSIFIED was going to make my task, to execute the task described in that paragraph, very much more difficult, if not impossible. And it had been agreed since late 2009, seven months earlier, that I would lead that task and I was ordered by the White House and NSC staff at that time, before Thanksgiving, to start making plans to execute it, and I had. Over the months between then and the last June meeting I regularly reported my progress in the preparations of those plans to both the White House team writing the new Space Policy, and to my boss. (There is another story there, but I digress!). All of this reporting was made at the unclassified level.
I very clearly remember being told on 21 June 2010, by the White House staff with which I had been working for nine months, since early September, that I was “Not to worry! The paragraph had been marked unclassified precisely so you (me!) could quote it in open source.”
Thus, I have being doing so ever since.
Additionally, I also clearly remember my very first briefing after paragraph classification was first implemented (many years ago), and being told by security officials many times over, for many years since then, that it was permissible to quote from classified documents if the information was marked with a “(U)”, meaning it was UNCLASSIFIED.
The request to delete that paragraph from my book does raise, yet again, the question as to why that task, signed by the President of the United States, has been ignored.
Its non-implementation remains a mystery that I have been unable to solve, although you can bet I have tried and tried.
Meanwhile, I will be delighted to send that paragraph to anyone who asks.
After all, it is UNCLASSIFIED!
Guy Thomas is Contributing Editor for Maritime and Military Affairs at SpaceWatch.Global.
He is the inventor of Satellite AIS, a device which has revolutionized the maritime world, and author of the C-SIGMA concept, the basis for Task #1 of the US National Space Policy. He recently received clearance to publish his memoir, though its security review took 19 months and involved the NSA, FBI, and CIA, plus the Intelligence arms of the US Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, plus the National Security Council, all places he had worked for or with in his career of more than 50 years.
Guy Thomas is currently seeking a publisher for his memoir, titled “Out of the Shadows.” He can be reached at [email protected].