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FRINFORMSUM 5/29/2014: DOJ Begins Core FOIA Regs Review, White House Inadvertently Names Top CIA Officer in Afghanistan, Country X, and Much More.

May 29, 2014

Today the Department of Justice Office of Information Policy (OIP) is beginning its review process to determine the potential content of “a core FOIA regulation and common set of practices” to be used across the government. Noting OIP’s less-than-sterling FOIA track record, Archive FOIA Coordinator Nate Jones has warned, “Vigilance is required by the requester community to ensure that the Common Regulation actually does lead to the release of more documents, more quickly.” To help ensure that these core FOIA regulations help standardize disparate, and often outdated, FOIA processes along best practice guidelines, the Archive, along with our colleagues at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), recently published our set of model FOIA regulations, which will be the “standard against which the results of the administration’s review will be judged.”

President Obama at Bagram air base outside Kabul.

President Obama at Bagram air base outside Kabul.

The White House announced Tuesday that it will examine how the name of the CIA’s top officer in Afghanistan, the Chief of Station in Kabul, was inadvertently released by the White House press office to thousands of reporters. The CIA officer, who works undercover, was included on a list provided to news organizations “of senior U.S. officials participating in President Obama’s surprise visit with U.S. troops” at Bagram air base outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. The embarrassing slip comes at the same time the Obama administration announced plans to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan and end combat operations there by the end of the year.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Eric Holder hinted that the government might not pursue jailing New York Times reporter James Risen for refusing to testify in a leaks trial, all the while pursuing the administration’s right to do so. Risen was subpoenaed to testify in former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling’s leaks trial resulting from his disclosures to Risen regarding Operation Merlin, “a Clinton-era effort by the C.I.A. to sabotage Iranian nuclear research by sending a Russian scientist to sell flawed blueprints to Iran,” which were the subject of a chapter in Risen’s 2006 book, State of War. While meeting with a group of journalists to discuss press freedoms, Mr. Holder said, “As long as I’m attorney general, no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail. As long as I’m attorney general, someone who is doing their job is not going to get prosecuted.”

Hector Monsegur at his sentencing in New York. Photo: Seth Wenig/AP

Hector Monsegur at his sentencing in New York. Photo: Seth Wenig/AP

Hector Monsegur, known online as Sabu, a prominent hacker and leading figure in both Anonymous and its splinter group LulzSec, was released from prison after federal judge Loretta Preska praised his “extraordinary cooperation” with the FBI. While the US government calculates Monsegur participated in over 250 hacking attacks that cost $50 million in damages, he received a lenient sentence thanks to his willingness to help “identify and convict eight of his peers in the Anonymous and LulzSec hacker collectives. Most notably, he was seminal in nailing Jeremy Hammond, who at the time was the FBI’s number one most wanted cybercriminal in the world, for his role in hacking into the private intelligence firm Stratfor.” Hammond, now serving a ten-year sentence, argued that Monsegur had directed much of Hammond’s activity, and “had supplied him with lists of foreign countries vulnerable to attack including Brazil, Iran and Turkey. Hammand went so far as to suggest that the FBI had been using him to launch cyber-attacks around the world, with Monsegur acting as the coordinator.”

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests garnered the release of 4,000 pages of unclassified emails and reports on efforts to monitor the Occupy movement in 2011 and 2012. The Occupy information was collected and disseminated by the US’ 78 counterterrorism intelligence-sharing offices, known as fusion centers, and the released information highlights their often disparate approaches to monitoring activity. While some centers distanced themselves from monitoring Occupy, others monitored “apparently lawful, even routine activities.”

WikiLeaks recently released a statement saying that Country X, a country whose identity has yet to be officially confirmed and whose full audio content the National Security Agency (NSA) monitors as part of Operation MYSTIC, is Afghanistan. The Intercept recently revealed that the NSA is “secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas” and one other country, which it did not name. WikiLeaks released its statement naming that country as Afghanistan because it could not “be complicit in the censorship of victim state X.”

U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler ruled that the US military can force-feed Abi Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian detainee being held at Guantanamo Bay, to prevent him from dying. She urged the Department of Defense, however, “to consider alternative methods” to keep him alive, saying that the Pentagon’s “intransigence” or refusal to compromise meant that “Mr. Dhiab may well suffer unnecessary pain from certain enteral feeding practices and forcible cell extractions. However, the Court simply cannot let Mr. Dhiab die.” Kessler additionally ordered the government to release 34 videos of the force-feedings to Dihab’s lawyers by June 13th.

Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Polish leader who declared martial law in 1981 to crush the Solidarity movement, died this week at age 90. The Archive’s 2006 book, From Solidarity to Martial Law: The Polish Crisis of 1980 – 1981, provides a documentary history of Solidarity, the Polish communist party leadership, the Kremlin, the White House, and the CIA, during one of the most dramatic episodes in the Cold War.

The Archive commends the long-awaited release of the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) volume XXI, Chile: 1969-1973, in a recent posting. The FRUS volume addresses Richard Nixon’s and Henry Kissinger’s efforts to destabilize the democratically elected Socialist government of Salvador Allende, and the U.S.-supported coup that brought General Augusto Pinochet to power in 1973.

The Archive’s latest posting provides excerpts from Anatoly S. Chernyaev’s 1974 diary, published in English for the first time. Chernyaev was the deputy head of the International Department of the Central Committee (and later the senior foreign policy aide to Mikhail Gorbachev), and he started keeping a systematic diary in 1972 that recorded the highs and lows of his work at the International Department, his attendance at Politburo meetings, philosophical reflections on daily life in the Soviet Union, and more. This is the ninth set of extracts the Archive has posted covering selected critical years from the 1970s through 1991.

Finally this week, our #tbt document pick! This week’s pick comes from our 2006 posting, Solidarity and Martial Law in Poland: 25 Years Later. It is Lt. Gen. Viktor Anoshkin’s December 11, 1981, notebook entry, which provides “one of the more important pieces of evidence to emerge in recent years concerning Jaruzelski’s desire for Soviet military assistance in connection with martial law.”

Happy FOIA-ing!


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