Credit Where It's Due: DOJ Changes Its Tune On FISA Transparency

from the now-let's-see-what-happens dept

Earlier this week, I complained that the Department of Justice seemed to be stonewalling a Freedom of Information Act request I’d filed seeking copies of mandatory semi-annual reports to Congress on the National Security Agency’s compliance with the procedures and civil liberties safeguards of the FISA Amendments Act–which the House voted yesterday to reauthorize for another five years. After sitting on the request for two months (the statutory deadline is 20 business days), DOJ had finally replied with a letter claiming they could “neither confirm or deny the existence” of reports that were required by federal law. I thought this was a little ridiculous. Fortunately, there were officials at the Justice Department who thought so too.

Having appealed the denial of my request, I got an impressively prompt reply on Tuesday evening from the director of the Office of Information Policy at DOJ, assuring me that she recognized the agency’s initial response had been “incorrect,” and that a new one would be forthcoming immediately. By Wednesday morning, their stance had changed entirely: They had found the reports I sought, and were forwarding them to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for review to determine what would need to be redacted before release–with a request that ODNI seek to expedite its analysis to compensate for their own delay.

Now, to be sure, I’d rather have had this response a month ago, and the documents before the House vote, but at this point DOJ appears to be doing exactly what they’re supposed to and making a good faith effort to facilitate the redaction and release of these important assessments. So it seemed appropriate to follow up on my initial blog post to acknowledge that–and in particular Office of Information Policy director Melanie Pustay, who straightforwardly acknowledged the error and acted quickly to correct it. We’ll see soon enough whether a similar spirit of transparency reigns at ODNI.

Cross-posted from Cato-at-Liberty.

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Comments on “Credit Where It's Due: DOJ Changes Its Tune On FISA Transparency”

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21 Comments
velox (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“What does this story have to do with your **AA masters? Are you just so used to trolling every Techdirt story that comes along that you no longer realize which stories are relevant to your masters and which ones aren’t?”

Actually the media industry has a focused interest in extending the surveillance state. The more powerful and capable government surveillance becomes, and the further legal precedence is extended, then the greater likelihood lawmakers will be persuaded in the future to allow the widespread application of that surveillance to enforcement of copyright law.
Freedom and the constitution be damned.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Hey look a shiny thing … its bright, its pointed at me, oh no!!! Its a viral internet blog post.

I think government should acknowledge anything can go viral. Treat all FOIA requests as if they were about to go viral and just do the right thing. But we have a culture of secrecy in government based on wrong doing and fear of exposure. So everything gets classified.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re:

I think if they were actually stonewalling, they would wait until after the Senate vote, because it arguably stands less of a chance of passing that chamber. I highly doubt anything that would be uncovered by the FOIA would have any effect on the chamber controlled by Republicans, who hold much more strictly to the party line than Democrats.

Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) (profile) says:

Stunning Transparency

I must admit, I’m downright stunned at the level of transparency being shown here. I was pretty sure all along that the stonewalling had a purpose as already stated: to delay releasing the documents till after the FISA vote passed. But I never imagined they would be so transparent as to release the files IMMEDIATELY after the vote. The only plausible explanation I can come up with is that they’re mocking you to your face, Julian. The timing is simply too coincidental (and too big of an admission of guilt) to be mere chance. This is a message: there’s nothing you can do to them even when they make no attempt to hide their misdeeds.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Stunning Transparency

They…they…they…

If you’ve ever worked inside an organization bigger than…oh say…half a dozen people…you’d realize how quickly “they” turns into the “I” who was tasked the job.

Acting like there aren’t real individuals…humans…working in organizations like the DOJ doesn’t make it so.

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