Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sensitive Site Register

I am doing some research on cartographic secrecy. This is the partial response I got from the Ordnance Survey to my FOIA request. Attached is the incomplete spreadsheet of 'secret sites' they released, essentially the same as that supplied to Alan Turbull, at Secret Bases. I find it interesting they are still sticking to the 'security through secrecy' argument despite claims to more 'open' mapping policy earlier in the year (see the Independent story, 'Secret nuclear bases to be shown on public maps', 6th August 2006).

Covering email from OS:

Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2006 11:27:26 +0100
From: Tony Gray
To: Martin Dodge
Subject: Sensitive Sites Register

Dear Martin

Ref: 58544

Thank you for your letter dated 15 August 2006, requesting as follows:
I am pleased to provide you with the attached information with regard to your request. Please be aware that not all the relevant information Ordnance Survey holds has been provided within this response, as parts of it fall within the National Security exemption under section 24 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

Section 24(1) is a qualified exemption and I have considered whether the balance of the public interest favours releasing or withholding the information. Ordnance Survey recognises that there is a general public interest in the transparency of Government institutions along with historical interest in the development of Government policy. The information withheld could help increase public knowledge and encourage better informed discussion. However, set against these arguments we also recognise that there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding national security and in not releasing any information that might prejudice national security. Disclosure of the withheld information could assist terrorists in identifying and planning attacks on critical UK assets and we must consider the potential loss of life and economic damage that could result. Moreover, a key feature of security is the relative anonymity of the sites and this would obviously be harmed by release of this information.

Taking into account all the circumstances of this case, I have concluded that the public interest in maintaining the section 24 National Security exemption in relation to this material outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

The information supplied to you continues to be protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You are free to use it for your own purposes, including any non-commercial research or private study you are doing and for the purposes of criticism, review or news reporting. Any other re-use, for example commercial publication or copying by or for another person would require the permission of the copyright holder. All documents created by Ordnance Survey will be Crown Copyright. You can find details on the arrangements for re-using our materials at:

Please note that your enquiry has been processed to Freedom of Information guidelines. If you are unhappy with our response, you may raise an appeal to our Appeals Officer at:

Customer Service Centre
Ordnance Survey
Romsey Road
SO16 4GU
Please include the reference number above. The Appeals Officer will
ensure that the process has been followed correctly, questioning any
decisions taken regarding the original response and recommending
disclosure of additional information if appropriate.

Thank you for your enquiry.
Yours sincerely
Tony Gray
FOI Advisor| Ordnance Survey


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