Since it has come up in the discussions here a couple of times, I thought I would identify that high-power government lab that was supposedly involved in an effort to decrypt the Ramey Memo. According to Colonel Richard Weaver, who answered my question about it without reservation, it was the National Photographic Interpretation Center which was part of the CIA back in 1994. I filed a FOIA request with them and received a fairly rapid response.
I told them that I was requesting information, documentation or anything relating to an examination of a photograph taken of General Ramey in July 1947, and that had been submitted to them for analysis by the Air Force in 1994. They responded writing, “This is a final response to your 17 January 2015 Freedom of Information (FOIA) request, received in the office of the Information and Privacy Coordinator for ‘information on an examination of a photograph taken on July 8, 1947, submitted to the National Photographic Interpretation Center (now National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) by the Secretary of the Air Force Office (Colonel Richard Weaver) in 1994.’”
They let me know that the CIA is not the repository for records of other government agencies, which, of course, I already knew. The request had gone to them because the National Photographic Interpretation Center had been part of the CIA at the time. By the time I filed my request it had become the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and fell under the auspices of the Air Force. The CIA supplied the names of the FOIA program managers at both the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and for the Air Force. Good information and helpful and I, of course, filed the requests on the day I received the letter from the CIA.
But then the CIA had to get snarky. They wrote, or rather John Giuffrida, who was the acting information and privacy coordinator wrote that “For your information, the CIA was not created until September 1947 [emphasis in original] and material prior to that date would be contained in the records of the Office of Strategic Services and other predecessor organizations of the CIA.”
All well and good, but I wasn’t asking about something that had taken place in 1947, but had occurred in 1994. The parent organization of the National Photographic Interpretation Center was the CIA. Had I wanted information that preceded the creation of the CIA, I would have communicated with the National Archives, but I would have also asked the CIA because September 1947 was a reorganization of the intelligence community and not the creation of a brand new organization.
Anyway, I did send a request to the Air Force and received a quick response from them, handing me off to another organization. The FOIA manager, who is not identified, wrote, “…we are not the correct office to submit your request.”
And I sent a request to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and received a quick response from them. They wrote, “Our extensive search of National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency records failed to identify any documents in our files that are responsive to your request.”
What does all this mean?
Not much really. I suspect that the attempt to read the Ramey Memo was a just part of the exercise and that the Air Force had expected the results they received. I don’t believe much of an attempt was made to read the memo, that someone might have looked at it with a magnifying glass or under some form of magnification. But rather than guess at their mission, here is what they say that they do:
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has a responsibility to provide the products and services that decision makers, warfighters, and first responders need, when they need it most. As a member of the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense, NGA supports a unique mission set. We are committed to acquiring, developing and maintaining the proper technology, people and processes that will enable overall mission success.
Geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth. GEOINT consists of imagery, imagery intelligence and geospatial information.
Department of Defense and government customers with CAC cards should go to https://www1.geoint.nga.mil. First time users must first register their PKI/CAC credentials with NGA.
Go to: https://pki.geo.nga.mil/servlet/RegistrationForm. You have to fill out who you are, command, supervisor (name/phone/email), and security officer (name/phone/email). When submited, [sic] the registration request is sent to your supervisor and security officer for approval then to NGA to be registered. Once registered, you'll be able to access our NIPR site and have access to NGA products and services.
Or, in other words, they aren’t in the business in attempting to read an obscure document from more than a half century ago. Their mission has a more timely and real world component and I suspect that the Air Force submitted the material to them so they could claim due diligence. The Air Force could say that “we used a high-powered lab and they were unable to read the memo.”
What does this mean?
Probably one of two things, neither of them important. First the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency didn’t spend a lot of time trying to read the memo. Someone may have looked at it, couldn’t make out much and quit. They told the Air Force they couldn’t read it which made the Air Force happy, and that was the end of it.
Second, I don’t view this as a cover up but as one governmental agency asking another if they can help and in the end the second agency said, “No.” It wasn’t their job to decipher cryptic notes on a piece of photographic film from a half century earlier. The Air Force could report the failure and move onto other things.
Of course, I made the rounds, going from the CIA which was originally the parent organization of the National Photographic Interpretation Center to the Air Force and then to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and never did get a good answer. They only told me that they had no records, and given the nature of the request from the Air Force, I don’t find that strange.
The point is that I was given the name of that high-power lab by the man who would have known, made the FOIA requests, got a typical run around, and have nowhere else to go. I could appeal, but what will they say? “Well, we looked again, even harder this time but we could find no documents responsive to your request.”
Now everyone knows the name of the lab and a little of the history that goes with it. There really is nothing of importance here, other than we did attempt to find any documentation but in the big bureaucracy that is the US government, you need a really big shovel to sift through all the crap.