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FRINFORMSUM 10/11/2013 Government Shutdown Halting FOIA

October 11, 2013

How the Department of Defense FOIA page currently appears.  h/t “FOIA Terrorist” Jason Leopold

Unsurprisingly, the US government shutdown is adversely affecting FOIA shops.  Scott Hodes’s FOIA blog has a post updating the smattering of FOIA shops still open (and these will likely close within weeks if the shutdown continues.)  As a show of solidarity (and a fear of requests getting lost), the NS Archive has largely stopped filing FOIAs –but continues filing our appeals on time.

Senator Leahy announced on the Senate floor that due to the shutdown, “Even the public’s right to know is compromised because of this shutdown.”

At the same time, Muckrock reports that the “Snowden Revelations” have spurred a 1,054 percent increase in FOIA requests to the National Security Agency.  Time to start proactively posting documents?  Or just tote out the ole 50 U.S.C. Sec. 402 statute, completely exempting documents showing “the functions or activities of NSA.”

Glenn Greenwald and Janie Gibson of the Guardian did an incredibly interesting “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit. Highlights include:

Q: What would you say is the single most shocking revelation that Snowden has leaked and why?

GG: Answer: The general revelation that the objective of the NSA is literally the elimination of global privacy: ensuring that every form of human electronic communication – not just those of The Terrorists™ – is collected, stored, analyzed and monitored.

The NSA has so radically misled everyone for so long about its true purpose that revealing its actual institutional function was shocking to many, many people, and is the key context for understanding these other specific revelations.


GG: One of the most gratifying things I’ve seen since this all started is how many journalists now communicate using PGP, Pidgen, OTR, TOR and similar instruments of encryption.

Just as was true for me, so many national security journalists – including some of the most accomplished ones at large media outlets, the ones who work on the most sensitive materials – had no idea about any of that and used none of it.

Now they do. In this age of a War on Whistleblowers and sources and ubiquitous surveillance, it’s absolutely vital that journalists learn advanced encryption methods and use it.

Here’s a beginner’s guide on how to use one method, PGP.  Lots of other great questions on Reddit.

Leaked “Prism” documents suggest that while the encryption used by Gmail, Skype, Facebook, and other communications methods work, the NSA may have a backdoor “encryption work around” into the sites themselves.

One email site that resisted sharing its users information with the US government, Lavabit, has chosen to shut down, rather than provide users with unsecure email.

Finally, hosted a terrific FOIA Summit this week.  Top discussed topics include: Over classification and Declassification, the b5 “withhold it cuz you want to” exemption; Records Management; the “just win baby” DOJ FOIA litigation positions; and the proactive disclosure of documents.  Getting so many FOIA experts in the same room was a success.  The hope is we will now work to take concrete steps to improve FOIA and access to information.

One Comment
  1. stevebwb permalink
    October 12, 2013 3:28 pm

    My experience is they usually deny the FOIA.

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