James Clapper's Office Declassifies Another Set Of Fully-Redacted Pages

from the also-jabs-public-in-eyes-with-godawful-scans dept

The ODNI continues to comply with court orders from FOIA lawsuits but its compliance is in letter only. Declassifying documents the way the ODNI does isn’t helping further the debate on privacy vs. security or making the government’s arguments for surveillance dragnets any more clear.

Two more documents were released late Friday, with one of them being more about what it doesn’t include than what it does and the other potentially leading to irreversible eye damage.

First up, the FBI’s report on the maintenance and use of [REDACTED] databases. About the only thing surviving the redaction knife is a few footnotes which indicate this document has something to do with the pen register/trap and trace bastardization that turned a targeted surveillance technique with a low legal barrier to entry into a broad, untargeted dragnet with a low legal barrier to entry. (PDF link.)

But this is how most of the “declassified” report looks.

Right-margin barely large enough to contain the exemptions.

The unexpected use of black in a sea of white redactions.

All of the above is in addition to several pages that were withheld in their entirety, without even being given the chance to be redacted into uselessness.

What remains is mainly footnotes. One supplies a description of PR/TT surveillance pulled directly from the US code. One references CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act). One footnote points out that the FBI is not allowed to “affirmatively search” content gathered incidentally by this program, unless, of course, (truck-sized loophole ahead) it needs to “prevent harm to national security.”

In total, the document is of zero value to anyone anywhere. No information was freed, nor will it be — not if intelligence officials have the final say for redactions. The redactions can be challenged, but that’s in EPIC’s hands.

The second document, a declaration in support of the PR/TT program by CIA director George Tenet, contains more readable info… but just barely. There’s a lot of redactions in here as well but the main struggle is reading the remaining text which looks like it was rolled off a myopic, 75-year-old mimeograph. (PDF link.)

Most of Tenet’s declaration revolves around threats the CIA was tracking, none of which are allowed past the censor, despite it being a decade later. The name Al-Qaeda appears every so often, and there’s hints of a discussion revolving around surveillance tactics and government actions related to the 9/11 attacks, but most of this information is withheld as well.

Interestingly, Tenet notes that the CIA (and other agencies) have picked up signals that signal a “US strike” in the “next four months,” possibly in conjunction with the 2004 elections. It also cautions that being too effective may be accelerating terrorists’ attack plans, with detainments and other factors possibly causing terrorism leaders to believe their operations are compromised.

Tenet declares all the redacted surveillance programs to have been essential in disrupting terrorists’ plans and/or possibly pushing attack timetables forward, noting that the PR/TT has been invaluable in lots of things that are completely redacted. In conclusion, please give the NSA/FBI PR/TT dragnet privileges.

So much for transparency. Even a discontinued surveillance program is subject to page after page of complete redaction, including documents discussing threats over a decade old whose attacks and plans were either thwarted or never came to fruition. The word “declassify” generally is taken to mean a release of information previously withheld, but in the ODNI’s hands, all it means is the release of as little as possible.

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Comments on “James Clapper's Office Declassifies Another Set Of Fully-Redacted Pages”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

What do you want?

So they declassified empty pages. It is more that we had.Now we know that empty pages are not classified.

If we could only get them to realize that stuff released by whomever (press or leaker or government official on deep background, no difference) is no longer classified, but general knowledge, we might make some progress.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What do you want?

“Now we know that empty pages are not classified.”

No I don’t think we do. For all we actually know ‘they’ may have classified documents consisting entirely of blank pages that are each classified and deemed to dangerous to declassify until nnn years have passed where nnn is classified. We only know that we are allowed to see some blank pages which may or may not include redactions. For all we know all classified documents other than the blank content we are allowed to see could consist entirely or mainly of blank pages. That may not be likely but how could we prove differently? Even if we can deduce that there exist x-magnitude documents which contain non-blank content we have no idea how many blank documents exist (unless we extrapolate from electricity & water consumption at classified facilities, which of course is also classified).

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Did it ever occur to you that Liar IS his job classification?

After all, when you’re pretending to be a government, you will obviously need a large number of silver tongued liars to keep the public believing that you really are a government.

I suspect his real internal title is Assistant Liar In Chief, since Liar In Chief is obviously reserved for the position of POTUS.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I can just imagine some of the internal documents….

“Whoops, our budget for toner is done for the quarter. Time to write up some redacted documents — after all, nobody but the most senior people here will ever know that the redactions cover up absolutely nothing….”

—2 years later—

WTF? Why is this FOIA document fully redacted??!?!


GEMont (profile) says:

Time for change

No criminal worth his salt is going to assist in the proving of his crimes. In the case of the NSA, you have a full “nest” of criminals hiding behind the legal barriers set up by the people who rewrote the laws so that they would protect only the guilty – themselves.

It is simply natural for them to use the methods at their disposal to prevent the public from discerning their misdeeds. The amount they use those methods – redaction, exclusion of and destruction of incriminating documents, etc., shows the depth and breadth of their criminal activity, albeit while preventing realization of the details. However the details are truly unimportant once you realize the goal and the methods being used to reach that goal.

For me, all of this merely points out the plain fact that government as we know it today, is completely obsolete and should be done away with altogether, perhaps replaced with something that actually answers to the people.

When you have a government whose only concern is self preservation, you actually have an enemy inside the gates, and in truth, you have no government at all. This has been the situation for decades almost globally – at least in the case of the members of the Five Eyes.

Since they have proven by their lack of participation in the running of the country, as it was designed to be run, and through their machinations to secure their own future, that the country can carry on quite well without a functioning government, they have in my opinion, signed their own resignation forms and should be dismissed with prejudice as soon as possible.

Surely, we of the present, can create a far better form of national management than that which has been passed down to us from centuries ago, and which has proven itself to be both incompetent, corrupt and a burden to those it pretends to support.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Time for change

Honestly, when Holder was talking about the amount of omission in the Ferguson, MO fiasco, I was hoping he would also realize the same in the NSA spying scandals. Obviously, I was wrong.
“They, like so many in Ferguson, want answers. In my conversations with dozens of people in Ferguson yesterday, it was clear that this shooting incident has brought to the surface underlying tensions that have existed for many years. There is a history to these tensions, and that history simmers in more communities than just Ferguson.”
Perhaps he should also read the Declaration of Independence which outlaws writs of assistance…

GEMont says:

Re: Re: Time for change

So far all the news casts have shown nothing but rioting blacks and the commentary is purely “racial tension” talking points.

When ever they mention the militarized cops, its to say that such gear “became necessary once police realized the extent of the riot and the type of weapons rioters were using against the police.”

Part of a good social engineering shock test, is the control of the media and the dissemination of false reporting to the general peasantry. As far as the Major Television Networks go, they got that part down pat.

Austin (profile) says:

Re: Time for change

Dismiss the government? Really? You want to treat them like an employee you’re letting go, fine. What do you do to the ones who won’t leave, which is probably going to be, oh I don’t know, all of them? Shoot them?

Don’t get me wrong, I hate what they’re doing to us, and these redaction are beyond laughable, etc, but some people (like you) really need to put more thought into this. When these people sign a letter of resignation you’ll know it, because they won’t redact the part that says “letter of resignation.” Until then, whether they deserve to keep their jobs or not, they have them, and they’re not letting them go.

So please just stop it with the “citizens take back the government, by force if needed” horse crap. The system we have is good in theory, it’s just broken in practice. Thankfully we have tools built into the system itself that allow us, the people, to fix it.

And it starts on election day. You wanna fix the government? Then vote. Leave your apathy and hopelessness at home, get to the polls, and vote. THAT is how you solve this.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Time for change

Oh how I wish what you wrote was true.
But, it is you that is dreaming, not I.

Elections will, as always, get you only the newest brand of corporate clown, who will do to you precisely what Nixon, Bush, Reagan, Clinton and now Obama have done. Talk sweet and pick your pocket.

You state that they will not resign willingly. Did you think then that they would leave a loophole that the people could use to fire them, such as an election? Get serious.

Do you really believe they have NOT fixed the elections in such a fashion as to insure the outcome?

Its the Vote Counters, not the Vote Casters, who (s)elect the winner.

I cannot believe you can be old enough to have witnessed the 2 faked elections of GWBush and still not realize that elections are simply a placebo designed to make the public think they are participating in the creation of their government.

Elections are now simply Selections, made by Corporate American for Corporate America.

The Vote is merely the best way to blame the results on the American Public.

Its funny in a way that you should mention “shoot them” as an alternative to dissolving their jobs, because in truth, that just might end up being what they do to YOU.

Did you think they were militarizing the police across the USA in preparation for an alien invasion from Mars – a Hollywood REDs invasion by Russians or Chinese via helicopter…. Godzilla??

But really, the give away in your missive above is this line:

“You want to treat them like an employee you’re letting go, fine. What do you do to the ones who won’t leave, which is probably going to be, oh I don’t know, all of them?”

Did you forget that they ARE supposed to be employees of the American People? Even you now realize that they will no longer obey the laws that govern the conduct of “elected” officials and will simply refuse to go quietly into obscurity.

Even you know that there is no legal procedure available to the American Public to rid itself of bad government.

Down deep you already know that an election is as futile as pissing into the wind, but your still too afraid to admit the awful truth.

Your government no longer works for you.

It is now a corporate entity designed to milk the American People of their tax money and use it keep them in chains until they are no longer needed, and then they will be disposed of like old broken machinery.

Vote all you want. It will change absolutely nothing, save the name of your oppressors’ figurehead.

zip says:

FOIAs -& the City of London's non-disclosure disclosure

It seems the City of London Police have an innovative cop-out whenever it comes to (British) FOIA requests — if they estimate that it might take them more than 18 hours to find anything — they simply ignore the whole request in its entirety and don’t lift a finger to try to comply with even the smallest part of it.


It’s a chip off the standard old bureaucrat-speak, a series of word-games which basically boils down to this: “We don’t have all the precise details, therefore we can’t give you any response — not even the simplest yes/no/maybe-type answer or the vaguest estimate.”

Richard says:

New think and old words

Why “redacted”? Why not “censored”.
These guys are great at finding new ways to describe hideous behavior.

Redacted means censored. Sounds bad when you say it is censored. redacted sounds like a thoughtful way to protect us from baddies.

Extrordinary rendition is kidnapping.

Enhanced interrogation is torture

And so forth. If you let them choose the vocabulary, they win the argument.

GEMont (profile) says:

Economics 101

Actually, after examining the images above of the documents and their “redactions”, it appears as though they are simply loading the text files as jpgs into Microsoft’s Paint program, or something similar, and using the box tool to cover whatever areas are deemed to be “not for public consumption”.

Methinks they have found an economic method of redaction which means they expect to be doing a serious shit-load of redacting into the future and realize there probably isn’t enough actual black ink available in the USA to do the job.

So…. Paint.

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