U.S. ARMY INSCOM STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES FOR FOIA REQUESTS REGARDING THE INTERPLANETARY PHENOMENON UNIT
|25-May-1997 - The Interplanetary
Phenomenon Unit (IPU), of the Scientific and Technical Branch,
Counterintelligence Directorate, Department of the Army, bore a very
suggestive name. Several researchers have made extensive efforts to obtain
records of this unit through the Freedom of Information Act, all
No IPU records are presently available; whether or not any records survive is unknown. The Army and Air Force say that no records of this unit exist. We wonder. These records are among the huge number of missing/unavailable UFO-related documents which can be shown conclusively to have existed.
We became aware of the IPU through readily available, if somewhat controversial sources. Some information in the published sources was specific enough to file for documents, so we began an FOIA effort to locate IPU records in 1992. By the time we gave up on this avenue of inquiry, 20 FOIA request and follow-up letters had been written and filed. In all, this effort resulted in more than 40 items of correspondence. This extensive effort produced absolutely no records of the IPU.
However, a couple of interesting things were revealed in the course of the FOIA effort which make the story worth telling.
An initial FOIA request to the Department of the Army soon became a lengthy exchange of correspondence with the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), "IACSF-FI" (Intelligence Activity, Central Security Facility - Freedom of Information), located at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, also home to the secretive National Security Agency (NSA).
Our first request for :
Produced a response letter dated March 6, 1992 stating:
We followed up with another request and received the following reply dated March 6, 1992:
Identical wording appeared in another reply letter dated April 13, 1992. This started us wondering about the possibility of ‘cookie cutter’ responses. So we fired off another request and received a reply dated September 9, 1992 stating:
In later correspondence, INSCOM stated that they had "standardized some..." ... "...paragraphs in our responses...". To us this sounded like ‘canned responses’. So we requested:
Finally in July, 1993, as a result of an appeal to the Secretary of the Army, we received copies of two pages of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command’s "FOI/PO SOP" (Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Standard Operating Procedure) document, the text of which is reproduced below. Canned responses were exactly what we had been getting! The paragraphs in the "SOP" document were identical to those in the responses we had received. The statements we had received had been from a "SOP" document without any supporting documentation, and, we believe, without valid records searches being made.
When we complained to the secretary of Defense that the INSCOM responses had been less than responsive, we received a lengthy response refuting our concerns and taking us to task for questioning the "good faith efforts made on our behalf." We do not agree that an agency not making a search in response to a legal FOIA request constitutes "good faith." The U.S. Army now maintains that the "SOP" document is no longer in service.
This frustrating FOIA experience and the discovery of the SOP document illustrate the rocky road which faces FOIA requesters. Over the last 5 years, we have filed more than 700 FOIA requests and follow-up letters and have experienced all of the frustrating methods the various government agencies, departments, activities, etc. use to minimize effort. If, in fact, U.S. Army INSCOM was using the "SOP" document to avoid doing proper searches, this in our opinion, would violate the spirit if not the letter of the Freedom of Information Act.
Our experiences convince us that what people who use the FOIA to ask about certain topics experience is a combination of bureaucratic inconsistency, governmental ineptness and active management of information. This SOP document would seem to be evidence of such information management, possibly not just of UFO information, but of a whole list of subjects. Certainly it is a tool which was used to help keep certain secrets; direct evidence that indeed, secrets can be, and routinely are kept contrary to opinion of those who are ill-informed.
FOIA requests to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI), to which the Army IPU records were supposedly "surrendered," resulted in denials that AFOSI was maintaining any IPU records or had any record of the files transfer. Finally, after several queries, AFOSI responded that the material had been destroyed, but could not, or would not produce any authority for such a statement.
AFOSI is an agency whose name repeatedly comes up in UFO-related matters. Prominent among these is allegations that AFOSI has been the source of UFO-related disinformation. Certainly, is a very difficulty task to actually obtain records of any kind from AFOSI via the FOIA.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) informed us in June, 1992 that:
The declassified Project Blue Book records in the holdings of the NARA contain just a few AFOSI records, and no records related to the IPU as far as we can determine.
Jim Klotz, CUFON SYSOP
Notes on text reproduction conventions used in the following:
Single ================ line of equal signs indicate a page break internal to a document
(3) All privacy cases will have similar cost paragraph followed by the following statement:
"Since you requested records under the Privacy Act, all fees are waived."
(4) Depending upon the circumstances, the following statement may be appropriate:
"Computer and search
fees of $___are due as a result of processing your request.
No charge will be assessed for referrals from other agencies unless pages are in excess of 100 or the referring agency waived all fees or advised the requester that charges would be made by us. No charge will be assessed for coordinated material. In these circumstances, a statement that all fees are waived is appropriate
23. Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs)/Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit (IPU)/Bluebook.
a. Periodically this office will receive requests concerning an activity described as the "Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit" and for information on UFOs.
b. When replying to request for UFO's records. Our reply should be as follows:
"This is in response to your letter of _____
under the Freedom of Information Act, 5USC
To determine the existence of Army
intelligence investigative records responsive to your
We regret to inform you that there is no
record concerning UFOs within this office and
If you have any further.............."
c. If asked about he IPU, the reply is as follows:
"Please be advised that the Interplanetary
Phenomenon Unit of the Scientific and
There is no record system maintained within
the Department of the Army to catalog,
We regret that we are unable to be of more assistance concerning this matter."
d. If there is a follow-on request concerning the IPU, our reply should be as follows:
"As stated in our letter of _________, records
of Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit no longer
e. If we are questioned further concerning this unit, our reply should be as follows:
"As stated in our previous letters of ________
and __________, the Department of the
24. Nuclear or Nuclear Related Documents
a. Unauthorized or unapproved releases of nuclear or nuclear related documents under the FOIA continue to be a sensitive issue. Examples include operating instructions, plans, tabular data, command post procedures, tactical studies, organizational structure, or combinations of information which could affect operations security (OPSEC) adversely.
b. Prior to the release of Army
intelligence records concerning nuclear or nuclear related information,
coordination must be made with ODCSOPS: Attn: DAMO-3XA, Room 3D549, The
Pentagon, Washington DC 20310-0403. Other Army-originated records
must be forwarded to ODCSOPS, the Initial Denial Authority (IDA).
ODCSOPS will coordinate with the appropriate agencies for approval or
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