Behind the CIA’s Mission to Secretly Retrieve a Soviet Sub From the Bottom of the Ocean

PIC: The Hughes Glomar (PD)

PIC: The Hughes Glomar Explorer (PD)

IO9’s Charles Strauss has written a great overview of Project AZORIAN: The CIA’s covert plan to retrieve a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine. If you’ve never heard about it before, then I think you’ll find this all pretty interesting. Incidentally, I first became aware of it through Charles Stross’s wonderful Cold War spies vs. Cthulhu mythos series The Laundry Files. AZORIAN becomes a major plot point in the second novel The Jennifer Morgue after negotiations between the Deep Ones and the UK government start to fray over the sub’s retrieval.

Anyway, I particularly like the use of the term “Glomarization” in Strauss’s piece:

Via IO9:

The submarine, if recovered, would be a treasure trove for the intelligence community. Not only could U.S. officials examine the design of Soviet nuclear warheads, they could obtain cryptographic equipment that would allow them to decipher Soviet naval codes. And so began Project AZORIAN. The U.S. intelligence community commissioned Howard Hughes to construct a massive vessel — dubbed the Hughes Glomar Explorer (HGE) — to recover the sub. The ensuing salvage operation, which began in 1974, was only a partial success; the U.S. was planning to embark on a second attempt when, in 1975, the story was leaked to the press, and the operation was canceled.

In the years that followed, it was notoriously difficult to get information on Project AZORIAN beyond the details that were published in the newspapers. In response to a FOIA request, the CIA refused to release any documents, saying that it could “neither confirm or deny” any connection with the Hughes Glomar Explorer. (As a result, the phrase “neither confirm or deny” became popularly known as the “glomar response” or “glomarization.”)

Keep reading at IO9.

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  • AManCalledDa-da

    Not to mention the black market nukes opportunity.

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