One of the more intriguing redactions that classification reviewers made to the sheaf of recently released commiques between the Justice Department and the Central Intelligence Agency is the codeword used to compartmentalize the existence of and information about the secret detention facilities and the enhanced interrogation techniques.
Apparently, that code word is still in use -- and is therefore classified. In 2002, the Washington Post's Dana Priest wrote that the covert CIA activities were organized in a compartment called "GST," which was, she reported, a shortened version of a classified code name.
The government has never acknowledged the existence of a GST compartment -- until now, that is.
That marking comes from the third page of a much larger 2004 memo written by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. It was among the memos provided to the ACLU last week. The letters "CRU/GST" are blacked out -- except for this one reference.
The memo refers to both the detention program and the interrogation techniques, and the classification doesn't contain any additional caveats. It follows, then, that CRU/GST denotes a large compartment. Generally, if a special access program has several components, and documents related to only one of those components are distributed, the classification will include a secondary codeword, followed, if necessary, by a number. The classification epicycles upon epicycles are used to restrict access even to people who are cleared -- read in to -- the general program.
If GST is the designator for the administration's covert detention/interrogation programs -- and possibly for all of its Al Qaeda-related ops -- then what's CRU?
Intelligence sources wouldn't say. The only public reference to CRU being used in the classification schema comes from a Lockheed Martin job posting for a paralegal at the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia. The applicant must possess both the " SI/TK/G/HCS/CRU and CRU-GST" clearances.
Now we're getting somewhere. The paralegal's job is to assist the U.S. Attorney with complex cases. I'm wagering a guess here that they involve terrorism and therefore include classified evidence obtained by the government's various intelligence collection programs. SI/TK/G/HCS stand for, in order, the compartments restricting access to info obtained from communication intelligence (eavesdropping), spy satellite, super-sensitive collection programs and from human sources -- HCS stands for HUMINT control system.
Here's a guess: CRU refers somehow to the legal justifications -- the golden shields -- that were written to sanction the CIA's GST program.
Or it designates a classification review unit (CRU)?
Or, CRU refers to some new program entirely?
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Marc Ambinder is a contributing editor at TheAtlantic. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.