The National Security Council has finally released the Ed Report in its entirety! We had been bracing for a court battle. We were very pleased to receive notice, by registered mail on May 8, that the NSC planned to comply with the Freedom of Information Act. The Council has kept its word, and there has been no need to resolve this matter through the judicial system. The government released the first portion of the report (in a redacted form, as is allowed by law) in time for us to post the first section on the Web early in the morning on May 24, 2000. The final section of it was released on June 30, 3000 - just in time for people to have the whole document before them over the Fourth of July holiday.

The publication of The Ed Report is an important event for those interested in high technology and the workings of the U.S. intelligence sector. But before going into the nature of the Ed Report itself, it's important to explain how it came to our attention. This January, one of us, Nick Montfort, was doing research for a magazine article (eventually killed) on the recently revived Federal Cyber Service proposal. This proposal, believe it or not, would create a ROTC-like paramilitary group of student interns trained to aid in information-age defense. Montfort discovered during his research and interviews that severe concerns had been raised by U.S. intelligence agencies regarding those agencies' use of people not officially on staff - not student interns, actually, but "civilian contractors." Montfort further learned, though a highly-placed source communicating only by anonymously-remailed email and known only as The Finger, that civilian contractors have been regularly used overseas in covert operations. Finally, The Finger pointed out that the major concerns about this practice were summed up in one recent, incisive report, produced by a body chartered by the National Security Council: The Ed Commission.

With information from The Finger in hand, Montfort approached William Gillespie about exposing the matter - either on a politically-oriented site Gillespie founded,, or, preferably, in some other more reputably-named forum. Gillespie persuaded Montfort to dig deeper before rushing to press with the provocative but sketchy information outlined by The Finger. He suggested, instead, that the two seek out the document released by the Ed Commission: The Ed Report.

We have since filed seven FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests with the National Security Council, two with the Central Intelligence Agency, one with the National Security Administration, and one with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which we believe received a copy of the report. In the meantime it became clear that the Drug Enforcement Administration was often involved in this type of civilian contracting, but that wasn't known to us until recently. Our early requests to the NSC, the CIA, and the NSA were all sent back to us, rejected on the grounds that they were overly vague.

Now, our persistence has paid off. The National Security Council - the office ultimately responsible for the report, and the focus of our FOIA efforts - admitted that they do know which document we're asking for, and incrementally released a redacted version of the Ed Report. This version clearly conceals most details of covert operations. But it does, the NSC says, leave untouched all information that is not a "tangible threat" to national security.

Although there have been several prominent documents offered on FOIA Web sites recently, the NSC's FOIA officer has said that due to their "limited technical staff" they will not put the Ed Report on the Web in any form - apparently not even in PDF, as had been done with other documents. Instead, they transmitted it all to us by fax. This is particularly unusual as we have information from The Finger indicating that the report was originally issued in hypertext format. (It may have originally been in Lotus Notes or some other non-HTML format, however.) At any rate, Montfort and Gillespie teamed up with Dylan Meissner, who does Web page design, and made the Ed Report widely available on the Web.

We chose not to provide blow-by-blow analysis of the sort many newspapers did when republishing The Starr Report. The Ed Report itself contains some relevant commentary, and we think the implications for a supposedly democratic society like the United States will be clear to any reader. While the fate of Montfort's Federal Cyber Service article demonstrates that mainstream publications are not usually interested in issues as complicated and bizarre as this, perhaps now that the Ed Report has been revealed in full there will be some opportunities to write critically about it. For the moment, we prefer to concentrate on our own writing and simply present the Ed Commission's report as is. We do hope that the press - but more importantly, interested people on the Web, in the United States and elsewhere - will be awakened by the incredible story the Ed Report contains.

- William Gillespie, Dylan Meissner, and Nick Montfort