FOIA Follies – Appeal for Hex-TUNITY records

Watch what I have to contend with, and how to respond. I’m sure there’s a dartboard in Washington, D.C. somewhere with my name, address, and photo on it.

Maybe two dartboards, if I’m lucky…

Original Denial Letter – See below for response

Dear Sir or Ma’am,

14675 Lee Road

Chantilly, VA 20151-1715

Dear Sir or Ma’am,

This is an appeal for NRO FOIA Case F-2022-00153. On 25 June 2022, I requested “Releasable version of TUNITY training material, to include graphical slides, instruction manual(s) based on different software versions, and any other records used to train operators on how to use TUNITY to control NRP satellites.

On 14 July 2022, I received a “No Records Found” letter from your office.

I am appealing the denial of FOIA request F-2022-00153 on the following grounds:

I believe your agency did an improper search. The “No Records Found” determination was listed as “no NRO originated records responsive to [my] request.” I did not ask for “NRO-originated records,” because the NRO did NOT develop TUNITY… TRW did. Air Force personnel at the Satellite Control Facility in Sunnyvale (CA) controlled the satellites using TUNITY. However, since NRO was a user, or if not a direct user, the organization’s collaboration was necessary to coordinate the software program with NRP hardware. Previous declassification releases (Corona, Argon, Lanyard; SIGINT II, MOL) have material that was not NRO-originated, but NRO-held. Plenty of documents are from Lockheed Missiles and Space, the Aerospace Corporation, or even U.S. Air Force memoranda… but were released under these declassification initiatives. Even if the wording was flawed, a good-faith effort to find TUNITY records and provide them was shot to hell.

I believe the agency improperly denied a procedural request. There IS mention of TUNITY being directly connected to the NRO in the monograph titled “Critical to US Security: The Gambit and Hexagon Satellite Reconnaissance Systems,” on Page 28, first paragraph, lines 1 and 2:

“Eventually, HTP became part of a much larger NRO effort known as TUNITY. It was used in coordination with the Air Force’s advanced Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and increased the efficiency of Hexagon cameras to 90 percent.”

The logical inference (even with a layperson’s understanding of the underlined and bolded portion) between the statement above from an NRO-created document and the author being a stated and knowledgeable representative of the NRO directly states that TUNITY was connected to the agency, and therefore records would be held by the NRO at the agency’s Archive Records Center (ARC).

The passage of time has reduced potential harm. Since TUNITY was developed for the Hexagon satellite program (1971-1986), the massive declassification effort to release Hexagon-related records in 2012 would indirectly infer that TUNITY records would be similarly declassified based upon passage of time, the elimination of the system being controlled, and lack of computer hardware (or punch cards) to show TUNITY in action.

The primary facility that used TUNITY is a parking lot full of rubble and dust. The computers and punch cards are in a museum. Aside from what is in your agency’s archival files, Hexagon is no more.

I look forward to receiving your decision on this appeal within the statutory time limit. If you have any questions on this appeal, please contact me.

Joseph T. Page II


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