Jason Leopold Files Lawsuit Over NSA's Refusal To Release Keith Alexander's Financial Records
from the the-agency-is-just-so-used-to-saying-'no' dept
FOIA enthusiast Jason Leopold isn’t going to sit back and let former NSA head Keith Alexander recede noisily into the background. Alexander’s transition from spy-in-chief to $1 million-a-month rockstar security consultant to our nation’s most easily-impressed banks is currently on everyone’s minds. First off, how many state secrets is he selling? And just how many hacker-beating patents will he be filing for?
But while slipping loudly out the front door with a quick wave of the hand and an accidental admission that his long tenure at the NSA’s helm has done nothing to beat back the terrorist horde, Alexander may have felt his move to the private sector would keep his financial records out of the public eye. Leopold, however, has just filed a lawsuit against the agency for its continued refusal to release these public records.
[S]ome aren’t simply laughing off the retired four-star general’s new endeavor. Some, like Leopold, are concerned that Alexander might actually plan on selling high-level state security secrets for his hefty price tag.
In the Baltimore division of the federal district of Maryland, the law offices of Jeffrey Light have served the NSA with a complaint, listing Leopold’s multiple attempts to retrieve Alexander’s records, and the utter refusal by the agency to fulfill the journalist’s requests.
Citing the Ethics in Government Act, Florida Congressman Alan Grayson wrote on behalf of Leopold, in a letter addressed to NSA Deputy Counsel Ariana Cerelenko, pressing that the public release of Alexander’s financial records are required—“unless the President finds that the release of the form would ‘reveal sensitive information,’ or ‘compromise the national interest.’”
As Daniel Stuckey at Vice points out, the NSA is the lone holdout when it comes to financial records. Even the CIA and the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) have made these documents available. But the NSA wants to hold onto Alexander’s records even though there’s no established legal reason for doing so.
Notably, this is not a FOIA request. This is a document that can be requested by any member of the public simply by filling out a form. These financial disclosures are to be made public under the stipulations of the Ethics in Government Act (EGA) of 1978. But the NSA has held the (now former) agency head above the requirements of this law, even though there’s nothing in the law that indicates the agency is outside of its jurisdiction. Obviously, Alexander’s departure for the private sector raises questions about his prior connections to companies that may have benefited from expanding surveillance programs or may be potential purchasers of his $1 million/month protection plan. These are questions that need answers, and the NSA is arbitrarily withholding mandatory financial disclosures. If the White House has given the agency super-secret permission to ignore the stipulations of the EGA, hopefully Leopold’s lawsuit will force that out into the open. If not, the NSA will need to start explaining why it’s not being responsive, and it won’t have the handy b(5) exemption [for FOIA requests only] to lean on.