Backstory on this response letter: way back in 2010 or 2011, the NRO was doing their thing and taking their sweet-ass time in declassifying the existence of Gambit and Hexagon. Now, this would have been the first major declassification effort since Corona (1995), so it was kept under wraps pretty well, but the audience was getting hungry.
Do I know about this declassification effort? Absolutely not… so I do what I love most -> write a few FOIA requests.
These requests subsequently came back as “NO RECORDS FOUND.”
- (Polite response) “Hmm, I though to myself, that seems odd.”
- (Realistic response) “They are full of shit.”
Like any poor sap – with basic writing ability – who has been wronged, I put ink on paper to my Senator (at the time) – the toolbag with his name on the letterhead.
Apparently he’s from a famous political family, who has been able to collect a paycheck from taxpayer dollars and score free letterhead (and franking [stamp] privileges). His staffer decided to school me in “how things actually don’t work in Washington, D.C.” with the above text. “Gee, did you think of using the Freedom of Information Act?”
(I will refrain from offering commentary on what I thought of her response. It would include too many profanities.)
See, I didn’t actually expect the politician to *do* anything… The mere threat of a senator or congressional representative (or their inept staffers) looking into any organization is (often) enough to kick some agency staffers into action… I’ve been on the receiving end of “informal government inquiries” and they never end well for the action officers.
Low and behold, the NRO declassified the satellites just a few months later. I can GUARANTEE you that the New Mexico senator listed above had absolutely NO part in helping (or hindering) the process.
I learned that the NRO likes to declassified programs on their organizational anniversary (aka, “birthday”). One kind representative from their PA shop was nice enough to tell me to stop sending requests on one particular system, because a systemic declassification effort was underway (SIGINT II, baby!).
I ceased sending requests, and the information *did* magically appear a few months later on their website.
Let this be a lesson, boys and girls: when you elect a politician, you should actually call them on doing their job once in a while. Make them remember they were elected to do a temporary job.
And warn them that we, the citizenry, can always find another stooge to take their place.