From the janitors who replace the toilet paper at Area 51 to the team that gathers intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command to the most highly trained signals intelligence collectors at the National Security Agency, an enormous amount of taxpayer money is spent trying to keep what these entities do on a daily basis a secret. And for good reason.

But the government often trips over itself to obscure even the basic outlines of secret units, even when in an age of ubiquitous information when it’s hard to keep quiet about anything.

About three-quarters percent of the information you’ll read below has been compiled from official government sources writing in unclassified papers and on their LinkedIn profiles. The rest comes from my reporting. No real secrets were harmed during the course of this production; I’ve left out several entities whose very existence is properly (at least to me) classified.

The National Security Agency headquarters.


F6 (The Special Collection Service) — In embassies across the globe, National Security Agency analysts work together with CIA teams to intercept signals intelligence (SIGINT) from denied areas — countries the US has to spy on. The folks who work on these teams are part of SCS, a joint CIA-NSA organization. It is not acknowledged by the NSA, although its internal division code, F6, can be found in material released through FOIA requests. If the CIA needs to break into a foreign embassy and bug a room, or set up fancy SIGINT collection equipment in a hotel across from it, its officers will work with SCS members based in the U.S. Embassy.


Ground Applications Program Office — The more anodyne the name is, the more interesting the activities tend to be. GAPO, based at Ft. Belvoir, runs secret technology and procurement programs for Delta Force and for the most highly classified Army intelligence projects. Try to Google it, and you’ll come up with next to nothing. But a LinkedIn resume of a former GAPO director says the job is “Responsible for the development, fielding, and sustainment of 190 programs, projects, and equipment evaluations with an annual budget in excess of $500 million, each with its own cost, schedule, and performance standards. Its commander is “[s]elected by senior executives to manage the two top classified programs within the United States Special Operations Command.”

A U.S. military drone at Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base.


Air Force Flight Test Center, Detachment 3 / 30th Reconnaissance Squadron (Area 51 at Groom Lake / Creech Air Force Base, NV) — Technically, Detachment 3 is based in California. But that’s a cover. The men and women of this unit serve as the principle managers of the Groom Lake test site for the U.S. Air Force and the CIA — the dream land known popularly as Area 51. The 30th Reconnaissance Squadron, based at nearby Creech Air Base, tests secret UAV projects at Area 51 and operates many forward deployed hovering sensors, like the RQ-170 drone that crashed in Iran in December.


USAF 1st Helicopter Squadron, Joint Base Andrews, MD — Known by the call-sign “Mussel,” this unit is responsible for carrying out the Air Force’s continuity of government mission in the National Capital Region — the evacuation of key civilian government officials. It’s very easy to catch a glimpse of one of these UH-1N birds from the Mall in DC. At least two of them are in the air over DC on a near-constant basis.

The Boeing 757 used by the Department of Homeland Security and US Foreign Emergency Support Team.


Unnamed Naval Annex, Potomac River, Washington, D.C. — Its construction in 2003 caused a hubbub in DC: the Navy was building a mysterious and highly classified building smack in the middle of the capital’s mall-scape. In order to give their blessing to the the required environmental reviews, members of DC Fine Arts Commission had to be sworn to secrecy about its purpose. A senior U.S official insists that providing the name of the Navy unit that operates the building and linking it to its purpose would constitute a breach of classified information. So all we can say is: it has something to do with highly-secret continuity of government plans in the national capital region.


Special Capabilities Office — When JSOC or the CIA have an acute technology problem, the SCO can help them bypass the regular and time-consuming acquisition process that doesn’t keep pace with battlefield requirements. The SCO was set up as a free-floating entity that could find, develop, acquire, research and test – the testing is important, because SCO folks accompany operators onto the battlefield and make sure the stuff works. The SCO is responsible for several formerly classified systems that are now overt, like armed Predator drones and RFID tracking. SCO operates in addition to JSOC’s own secret procurement offices (see #4 above), and is considered the “black budget” component of the Rapid Equipping Force, which tries to speed new technology to the entire battlefield. On the Pentagon org chart, the SCO reports to the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Advanced Systems and Concepts.

The McGuire Air Force Base.


227th SOF (Special Operation Flight) squadron, McGuire AFB, NJ — Members of this unit operate two Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST) planes that are on stand-by at a moment’s notice to deploy U.S civilian intelligence and diplomatic personnel to the scenes of terrorist incidents and world crises.


Army Compartmented Element, Ft. Bragg — Very little is known about ACE, other than its role in providing real-time intelligence to Army special forces. A detachment of ACE, known by the initials BI, is comprised entirely of highly trained female interrogators and intelligence collectors.

The Pope Air Force Base.


486th Flight Test Squadron, Eglin AFB, FL — One of its six squadrons is on stand-by alert for special operations and intelligence missions world-wide; the 427th Special Operations Squadron, based at Pope Air Force Base, has its pilots flying missons for the secret squirrels of JSOC and the CIA.


Mission Support Activity (MSA) — America’s unacknowledged 17th intelligence service, it was transferred from the Army to the Joint Special Operations Command in 2003. With an annual budget of around $80 million, MSA gathers intelligence to support the special missions of JSOC’s elite units, often operating in areas where the CIA isn’t able to tread. MSA has acquired a particular expertise in close-in signals intelligence collection, and they were deployed to Afghanistan in early 2002 under the cover name GRAY FOX. Their cover name, until two three years ago, was INTREPID SPEAR. Within JSOC, they’re known simply as “The Activity.” The current code name is classified. By the way: the openly perusable base directory at Ft. Belvoir, VA includes a listing for MSA.

Read more:

Michelle Broder Van Dyke / Via BuzzFeed

UPDATED — April 9, 9:35 a.m. ET:

Around the country, states are adopting or considering marijuana legalization measures, and a majority of Americans now say recreational use of marijuana should be legal, according to recent polls.

Following is a look at the states that have passed or are considering laws legalizing marijuana:

1. Alaska

What is legal? Marijuana possession was decriminalized in 1975 and medical marijuana was legalized in 1998.
What’s next? The push to legalize cannabis is strong in Alaska, with a group known as Campaign to Regulate Marijuana leading the movement. CRM gained more than 36,000 signatures on Jan. 15 for marijuana legislation based on Colorado’s law to be placed on the August ballot — it only needed 30,000 signatures. If the law passes, Alaska would be the third state to legalize marijuana.

2. Alabama

AP Photo/Dave Martin

AP Photo/Butch Dill


What is legal? Nothing as of now, and possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to a year in jail.
What’s next? The Alabama Legislature has passed a bill, called Carly’s Law, to allow the University of Alabama at Birmingham to study cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component of marijuana, for patients with seizures. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley on April 2.

3. Arizona

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin


What is legal? Medical marijuana has been legal for cancer and chronic pain patients since 2010.
What’s next? There is a push now to add more to the list of approved medical marijuana conditions, such as PTSD. This year, a bill was introduced that would decriminalize weed, and Rep. Ruben Gallegos filed a bill to regulate and tax marijuana. Recreational marijuana advocates also hope to get something on the 2016 ballot that would be similar to Colorado’s marijuana legislation.

4. California

Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

What is legal? In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Marijuana possession is also decriminalized.
What’s next? A 2010 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana failed, and the issue will probably not get back on the ballot for another vote soon. Although Attorney General Kamala Harris noted that it would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars annually in law enforcement.

5. Colorado

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

What is legal? As of Jan. 1, 2014, cannabis cultivation, selling, and smoking became legal in Colorado.
What’s next? The profits have been evident since Colorado legalized marijuana, but opponents and supporters alike will be watching the state very closely to see what example it sets.

6. Connecticut

Jorge Duenes / Reuters / Reuters



What is legal? Connecticut became the 17th state to legalize medical marijuana in 2012 when Gov. Dannel Malloy signed it into law. Marijuana possession is also decriminalized.
What’s next? The state is currently implementing its medical bill: On Jan. 28, Connecticut announced which four locations would be allowed to grow marijuana, and it is still considering which dispensaries will be granted the state’s five licenses to sell weed.

7. Washington, D.C.




What is legal? Medical marijuana became legal here in 2011.
What’s next? Washington, D.C., is on the verge of decriminalizing marijuana: On March 4, the D.C. council voted in favor of a measure that would make the penalty for smoking a joint the equivalent of a parking ticket. If the measure is approved by Congress, D.C. would join 15 other states that have decriminalized marijuana. Support for marijuana has increased, according to a Washington Post poll, with 63% of residents currently in favor of legalization. Advocates have also filed a ballot initiative, which could ask voters as soon as this November if recreational marijuana should be legal.

8. Delaware


AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File


What is legal? In 2011 medical marijuana was legalized.
What’s next? The state only approved one pilot dispensary, so the program is still seeking more support from the state. Delaware also has harsh laws for possession, with a penalty of up to six months in jail for one joint.

9. Florida



What is legal? Nothing cannabis-related is legal in Florida yet, although a “medical necessity” defense has been established in court.
What’s next? This November, Florida residents will vote on a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. Advocates gained over 683,000 signatures to get the measure on the fall ballot. Attorney General Pam Bondi is fighting the initiative and Gov. Rick Scott said that he would vote against it, but his office does not have the power to veto the measure if it does pass. In addition, a handful of bills have been introduced in the state legislature to reform Florida’s marijuana laws. On March 6, a medical marijuana bill sponsored by two republican lawmakers that would legalize cannabidiol for severe seizures was advanced by the House Committee on Criminal Justice.

10. Georgia


What is legal? Nothing currently.
What’s next? Rep. Allen Peake introduced a medical marijuana bill on Jan. 28 that would legalize cannabidiol for patients with severe seizure disorders. The Republican representative said he wanted to sponsor the bill after meeting a 4-year-old girl who suffers from a seizure disorder. The bill would allow academic institutions to produce the medical marijuana, not businesses or individuals. On March 3, the bill overwhelmingly passed the House, but died later in the month when it was not brought to the floor before the legislature session ended.

11. Hawaii

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren


What is legal? Medical marijuana was legalized in Hawaii in 2000, but there aren’t any approved dispensaries that patients can buy from, so a license allows residents to grow their own plants or ask a caregiver to do it for them.
What’s next? Speaker of the House Joe Souki sponsored a bill to create a state-regulated marijuana market that could legally sell to adults 21 and older, but it died in committee. A bill to decriminalize marijuana was advanced out of the Senate but has not yet been considered by the House. In March, the House Health Committee voted unanimously to create a task force that would examine issues surrounding the development of a medical marijuana dispensary system in Hawaii. The resolution must now be passed by the House and Senate.

12. Illinois

AP Photo/Scott Eisen, File

What is legal? Medical marijuana was signed into law on Jan. 1, 2014, by Gov. Pat Quinn, making Illinois the 20th state to do so.
What’s next? The state’s medical marijuana program is still in its early stages, and patients will not be able to access weed until this spring. Additionally, Illinois’ marijuana penalties remain harsh; the state has the fifth-highest arrest rate for marijuana possession in the nation, according to the ACLU.

13. Indiana


What is legal? Nothing. Possession of small amounts of marijuana is punishable with up to a year of jail time and a $5,000 fine.
What’s next? Sen. Karen Tallian introduced a bill in January that would decriminalize marijuana, although it was not reviewed by a committee and therefore will not be heard by the General Assembly this year.

14. Iowa

AP Photo/Dave Kolpack, File

Baz Ratner / Reuters / Reuters


What is legal? Nothing. In Iowa, first time offenders caught with possession of even a single joint can be sentenced to up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
What’s next? In 2013, Rep. Bruce Hunter and Sen. Joe Bolkcom introduced medical marijuana legislation to the State Assembly, which would exempt patients in Iowa with cancer, HIV, severe pain, and other conditions from arrest for using marijuana with a doctor’s recommendations. It would also allow patients or caregivers to grow their own weed or to buy it from a nonprofit dispensary. The bill is considered dead this year, but Sen. Bolkcom and other medical marijuana advocates are still trying to raise awareness of the issue. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad said he fears medical marijuana would lead to unintended consequences.

15. Louisiana


What is legal? Nothing. People caught with possession of even small amounts of cannabis can be punished with up to six months in jail.
What’s next? An August 2013 survey found that 65% of residents support medical marijuana. A state committee met in January to hear testimony on reforming marijuana laws, but there is currently no active bill.

16. Kentucky

AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File

What is legal? Nothing cannabis-related is legal as of now.
What’s next? The battle to legalize medical marijuana is ramping up as the legislature is set to consider a bill this year that Sen. Perry Clark introduced. The state senator has introduced the bill twice before, but believes it has a good chance to pass this year. In February, Sen. Julie Denton also filed a bill that would legalize cannabis oil for children with epilepsy, which was unanimously passed by the Senate on March 12. The bill would allow the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville medical schools to research and allow anyone enrolled in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration trial to be treated with the oil. The bill now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass. The measure also has the support of Gov. Steve Beshear and the Kentucky State Police.

17. Kansas


What is legal? Nothing. Kansas has strict weed laws with possession of any amount punishable with up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Second time offenders could be convicted of a felony and face up to three and a half years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
What’s next? A survey conducted in Kansas found that 70% of residents support medical marijuana. In 2013, a medical marijuana bill was introduced to the state Senate and another to the state House. Although neither bill was heard by its respective committee last year, both bills carried over to 2014 and both committees are headed by a new chairperson.

18. Maine

What is legal? The state legalized medical marijuana in 2002 and the state has also decriminalized possession. In 2013, Portland, the largest city in the state, voted to legalize recreational marijuana, making it the first place on the East Coast to do so.
What’s next? The residents of Portland voted 70% in favor of legalization in November, and the rest of the state may follow this trend, meaning Maine could legalize weed when it appears on the ballot in 2016.

19. Maryland

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

What is legal? Not much, but Gov. Martin O’Malley has signed a bill that establishes a hospital-based medical marijuana research program, and has promised to sign a bill that would decriminalize weed in the state.
What’s next? Marijuana Policy Project and the ACLU did a joint poll that found 53% of Maryland voters want to tax and regulate cannabis like alcohol. On Jan. 16, 2014, a bill to legalize up to an ounce of weed and the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants for adults over age 21 was introduced, which has since been passed by the House. The bill would regulate and tax sales of cannabis in the state as well as wipe criminal records of past marijuana offenders clean, although based on the the legislatures previous decisions it probably will be an uphill battle to pass it. On April 7, the General Assembly passed a measure that would decriminalize weed. The bill imposes civil fines, rather than criminal sanctions, on people caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana. The Governor said he intends to sign the measure into law.

20. Massachusetts

Anthony Bolante / Reuters / Reuters

Songquan Deng/Songquan Deng


What is legal? In 2008, Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana. In 2012, the state legalized marijuana for medical use, becoming the 18th state to do so.
What’s next? The state is still setting up its medical marijuana program, with patients waiting to get proper identification cards. On Jan. 31, the state granted 20 provisional licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries, which can now begin building their facilities and growing marijuana. Rep. Ellen Story introduced a legalize bill in 2013 that could still be considered this year by the legislature, and if not, advocates hope to get a bill on the 2016 ballot.

21. Michigan

AP Photo/Jeff Barnard


What is legal? Medical marijuana was legalized in Michigan in 2008 with 63% of voters in favor, but questions of legality continue because of a court decision that said extractions, including resin and edibles, are not protected by the law. In November 2013, voters in three Michigan cities approved bills to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, adding to four other cities in the state that decriminalized weed in 2012.
What’s next? Rep. Mike Callton introduced a bill that would allow dispensaries to open for medical marijuana patients, which passed the House in December, but has yet to be considered by the Senate. Another bill to reclassify edibles as “usable marijuana” is also waiting to be heard by the legislature.

22. Minnesota

What is legal? In 2004, small amounts of marijuana were decriminalized in Minnesota, although possession of two ounces is punishable with five years of jail time and a $10,000 fine.
What’s next? The big push in Minnesota is to legalize medical marijuana, and a joint Senate and House bill was introduced last year that will likely be heard in 2014. A similar medical bill passed the full legislature in 2009, although it was vetoed by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty with the support of law enforcement.

23. Mississippi

AP Photo/Ed Andrieski



What is legal? Marijuana possession is decriminalized in Mississippi, and first offenders who posses 30 grams or less are punished with a $250 fine.
What’s next? Sen. Deborah Dawkins has introduced a medical marijuana bill to the Mississippi legislature five times in the past, but it has been dismissed every time. The House voted on March 27 to make the marijuana oil legal in the state under tightly controlled circumstances. The Senate still must approve the agreement before it goes to Gov. Phil Bryant for his consideration. The vote was significant though, since the House had previously rejected the measure.

24. Missouri

Rick Wilking / Reuters / Reuters


What is legal? Missouri has strict marijuana laws, with a gram receiving punishment of up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
What’s next? Rep. Rory Ellinger introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana and a bill to reduce Missouri’s harsh marijuana penalties. In February 2014, Rep. Chris Kelly introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana and set up a system for growers and dispensaries as well as impose a 25% tax on marijuana. In addition, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation hope to get a voter initiative on the ballot in 2016, when they believe it would pass based on polling.

Best of April

Buy Clotilde’s latest book, The French Market Cookbook!

• We’ve had an eerily summer-like month of April, with cherry blossoms and lilac and wisteria blooming everywhere, unending afternoons at the park, and blissful dinners on sidewalk terraces.
• I have been to see the exhibition Dutch Artists in Paris, which ends on May 13, and L.O.V.E.D. it. My favorite part was seeing the paintings Van Gogh painted of Montmartre when he lived on rue Lepic, behind a handsome blue door I always point out with relish on my Montmartre tours. And now, based on the view he painted from his apartment, I’ve even figured out which window he was looking out from!

Vincent van Gogh, Vue depuis l’appartement de Theo, 1887.
• This month, I also want to recommend a little store I love called Sept Cinq, which sells clothing and accessories all created by Paris-based designers. I especially like the jewellery from BDM Studio, and got myself a ring I adore.
Meet me at these events!
I will be presenting my new cookbook Tasting Paris at these two events. Please come meet me if you can!
Paris, France: Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 7:30pm
Talk and book signing at the American Library in Paris, 10 rue du Général Camou, 75007 Paris, M° Ecole Militaire, 33 (0)1 53 59 12 60.
The event is free and public; a suggested donation of 10€ will help support the Library’s programming.
Tasting Paris will be available for purchase.
Dallas, Texas: Saturday, June 2, 2018, 7pm
Book signing at Interabang Books, 10720 Preston Rd. Ste. 1009B, Dallas, TX 75230, (214) 484 4289.
The event is free and public.
Tasting Paris will be available for purchase.

A Montmartre shirt designed by yours truly
Would you like to wear a shirt that celebrates the beauty and charm of Montmartre in a unique, hand-drawn way? I have just the shirt for you, available for men, women, and children, with an illustration I drew inspired by my beloved neighborhood.

Learn French before your next trip!
If you have plans to visit France in the near future (or just daydreaming about it!), working on your French is such a great way to prepare for your trip. I have partnered with Frantastique, a fun and well-crafted online French course, to offer you your first month free, no strings attached.
The courses are delivered by email daily, you can customize them to your level and preferences, and that one free month should give you a good idea of what it would be like to learn or improve your French over a longer period of time. Are you in?
Cherry blossoms at the Jardin des Plantes
The post Best of April appeared first on Chocolate

Aston Villa and Middlesbrough are fighting it out for the services of Bristol City defender Joe Bryan, according to Sky sources.


The plans cover less and follow fewer rules than most insurance that you can buy now. They are also less costly and will be marketed extensively.


Have a Great Weekend.

What are you up to this weekend? We’re taking the boys to the carousel tonight, and tomorrow I’m taking myself to get a foot rub.… Read more
The post Have a Great Weekend. appeared first on A Cup of Jo.


This winter, my skin was feeling dry and dull, and nothing I did seemed to change that. So, I made an appointment with my dermatologist, who recommended three products that completely changed my skin…

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic.… Read more
The post Three Products That Truly Changed My Skin appeared first on A Cup of Jo.