EPIC Receives A Settlement For Legal Fees From The NSA In Its FOIA Lawsuit Targeting Presidential Cybersecurity Directives

from the a-small-but-useful-win dept

Some semi-good news to report here. EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) has received a settlement from the NSA in its long-running lawsuit (dating back to late 2012) against the agency for its withholding of documents related Presidential Directive 54, a national security directive on cybersecurity.

It's a partial victory, but there's still more at stake, as EPIC's post points out.

EPIC received some of the documents as a result of the lawsuit, "substantially prevailing" under the FOIA, and prompting the NSA to make a settlement offer to EPIC. As a consequence, EPIC will receive attorneys fees from the NSA. EPIC is simultaneously appealing the lower court's determination that NSPD-54 is not an "agency record" subject to the FOIA. It was the first time a federal court has ruled that a Presidential Directive is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
The problem with "first times" is that they almost inevitably lead to more incidents. If this decision is upheld, the government will now have one more way to dodge FOIA requests on secret directives.

On the plus side, EPIC will be receiving $3,500 in attorneys' fees from the NSA, but as it notes, the agency is still withholding documents thanks to the favorable lower court ruling. The documents EPIC has received so far are embedded below, and as the agency seems to prefer, they are unsearchable images, rather than scans. This allows the government to appear transparent while still hampering attempts to cross reference existing documents or other versions of the same document. (The government has been known to redact something on one FOIA response while leaving it unredacted on others -- hence its hesitance to release documents to "serial" requesters.)

The reimbursement of legal fees is helpful, considering EPIC's court battle is far from over (and that's just for the lawsuit involving this particular secret Presidential Directive). It's great we have a Freedom of Information law, but far too often, it takes an actual court decision to actually free the requested information.





Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2014 @ 6:09am


    "its long-running lawsuit (dating back to late 2012)"

    As lawsuits go, that seems rather short.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2014 @ 6:09am

    Say what? NSA eclipsed the Kardashian sisters again?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Feb 14th, 2014 @ 7:17am

    If this decision is upheld, the government will now have one more way to dodge FOIA requests on secret directives.

    You can bet your job they would scrap FOI laws if they could without causing massive backlash. No, they need to slowly erode democracy before applying the death blow.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2014 @ 8:11am

    unfortunately, that's still chump change.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2014 @ 10:13am

    "The documents EPIC has received so far are embedded below, and as the agency seems to prefer, they are unsearchable images, rather than scans." So why don't you just OCR them back into searchable PDFs, and add them to a massive FOIA library in order to defeat the cumbersomeness of how they are delivered? I mean seriously.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2014 @ 11:00am

    Re:

    Great Idea.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 14th, 2014 @ 12:59pm

    OCR

    OCR is am imperfect process there are always typo's, the result always needs to be proof-read. If you relied on an OCR Scan in court without checking for typo's, that mistake can destroy your case.

    When you go against the NSA anywhere you better be DEAD RIGHT and preferably lily white clean, they fight with all the dirt they have.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    btrussell (profile), Feb 14th, 2014 @ 6:51pm

    Re:

    Exactly what I was thinking. Just over a year is a long running lawsuit? Must've meant 1912. That would be epic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Feb 16th, 2014 @ 7:30pm

    Re: OCR

    Easy, if time-consuming fix then: post the documents publicly, and crowd-source the transcription.

    Say you had a document 1,000 pages long, where you needed to type out what was in it, because it was in picture format(like this instance). 1K pages for one, or even a few people, would take forever, but 1K pages spread between a couple hundred, or even thousand people? You'd get that done in a few days.

    Do that three or so times, so you have multiple versions to compare so you can spot and correct any mistakes, and a behemoth of a document, intended to be a royal pain to use by the people who requested it, is instead in nice, easy, searchable format.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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