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NSA security education posters from the Cold War

Security Fever: Catch it! ArsTechnica just posted these wild posters from the NSA’s security education program. They were released because of the diligence and FOIA request of our friends at the Government Attic where you can see all of the posters.

In February of 2016, the people behind the website Government Attic made an unusual Freedom of Information Act request to the National Security Agency: “A digital/electronic copy of the NSA’s old security posters from the 1950s and 1960s.” It took more than two years, but the NSA finally got around to honoring the request—providing digital images of more than 100 posters from NSA’s Security Education Program, spanning from the agency’s early days in the 1950s up to the 1970s (with some minor redactions, of course).

The posters are a time capsule of Cold War era government secrecy culture, and they use every possible approach in the propaganda and advertising book to hammer home the need for security awareness. Posters from the 1950s heavily played on the threat of the Soviets to life, liberty, and religion—with a heavy emphasis on the role of Christianity in the lives of good, God-fearing Americans of the time. Others focused on patriotism and on the need to protect the American way of life.

But with the cultural changes of the 1960s and 1970s, things got a little… looser, as pop culture references started to seep into the security propaganda materials—along with occasional warnings about the counter-culture (such as “Don’t Blow Your Clearance on Drugs”). A Saturday Night Fever-themed poster, with an illustration of John Travolta that looks a bit more like a young Mitt Romney, is perhaps the high-water mark of the trend. While perhaps not as iconic as the World War II operational security poster “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships,”  the “Security Fever—Catch It” poster is a lost classic.

via Security Alert: NSA security education posters from the Cold War | Ars Technica.

Digging through the Government Attic

I love the [[Freedom_of_Information_Act_(United_States)|Freedom of Information Act (United States)]] (FOIA)! It’s a vital tool to researchers, journalists and the public — so much so that there are now several sites that try to help manage the sometimes long and arduous FOIA process (see MuckRock and FOIA Machine). So I’m constantly on the lookout for sites that post FOIA’d documents that I can add to my FOIA web harvesting archive.

One such site that has long had a place in my govt documents heart is the Government Attic. This is a truly amazing site in which to “rummage.” The site has posted thousands of documents(!) from their many FOIA requests including:

  • FOIA logs (FOIAs about FOIAs are really handy!)
  • documents across a wide swath of government activity like Inspector Generals of various agencies
  • internal agency Websites
  • agencies’ self-identified interesting documents
  • FBI high visibility memos
  • DoD resale activities border review (reviews which videos and magazines could be sold on military bases)
  • a compilation of FBI documents concerning the security of telephone services, 1952-1995 (this one was so interesting that I have stored a local copy and had it cataloged for our library!).

They also have a Links page which includes information about FOIA, guides on how to submit FOIA requests, etc.

Bottom line, this is a fascinating site to which all research libraries should at least link. You never know when a student, faculty or researcher will ask you about how to access obscure historic government documents. One could get lost “rummaging through the Government Attic.” And this is a good thing! Please post in the comments any documents you find particularly intriguing or compelling. That’ll really help to “seed the cloud” with pointers to critical but obscure government documents.

GovernmentAttic releases 16 FOIA’d reports by the Defense Intelligence Agency

According to this story on /., the GovernmentAttic website has just published a dossier of reports produced by the Defense Intelligence Agency describing biological weapons development in nations throughout the world.

“These sixteen documents comprise a set of U.S. Army Medical Intelligence reports from the 1970s and 1980s concerning the extent of research into and deployment of biological and chemical weapons activities in various nations.

These reports were requested under Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR), administratively processed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and released by the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM).”

be sure to take a look at the GovernmentAttic, they’ve got a ton of FOIA’d and very interesting publications available.

Lunchtime listen: Rummaging in the government’s attic (2010 next HOPE conference talk)

[w:Phil Lapsley] and Michael Ravnitzky gave an intriguing talk on [w:Freedom of Information Act (United States)] or FOIA at the Next HOPE Conference, New York City, July 2010. The talk was entitled “Rummaging in the Government’s Attic: Lessons Learned from More Than 1,000 Freedom of Information Act Requests.”

You can access both the audio file (23 MB mp3 file) and the slides (2.7 MB pdf file). And don’t forget to surf on over to the Government Attic for access to all of the FOIA’d documents.

Thanks Phil and Michael for the informative talk and for and for your studies of FOIA!

[originally posted on Govdoc-l listserv]