Muckrock has a story of Alex Richardson, seeking information on the IRS’s Whistleblower Office, which has been receiving some scrutiny lately. Richardson filed a bunch of FOIA requests and discovered that the IRS apparently would like to make his life as difficult as possible. First he got an infamous GLOMAR “neither confirm nor deny” response — which was supposed to be limited to national security issues. However, with at least one request, a package with a CD just arrived… and Richardson was dismayed to find the contents of the CD encrypted.
That seems a bit strange for a response to a FOIA request, since whatever is being delivered is supposed to be public, but whatever. The letter accompanying the CD explains, for reasons unknown, that while the IRS was only returning 6 of the 23 pages that had been located, it was doing so with encryption, and it would send the key separately.
Again, this seems like weird operational security for public documents. Now, also, in the response letter, it noted that the reason only 6 pages are included is because the rest were withheld under FOIA exemptions:
So you had to imagine that in those 6 pages, there should at least be some relevant information. Nope. It appears that the IRS went through all that to give a final middle finger to Richardson, because when he finally decrypted the documents… they’re all redacted too. Six pages, entirely blacked out. Which makes you wonder why the other 17 were “withheld” in the first place. What difference could it have made?
As Muckrock notes at the end of its piece:
Just GLOMAR us next time, IRS. Save us both a lot of grief, and it’s a lot less cruel.
Comments on “IRS Encrypts An Entire CD Of Redacted Documents In Response To FOIA Request”
Does anyone have a good idea of what it is he was trying to get information about, based on the criteria specified in the article? Whatever it is, it looks like something interesting…
Maybe related to this kinda thing? https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/md-dc-utilities-pay-paper-mills-burning-black-liquor-for-alternative-fuel-credits/2013/02/22/440078da-696b-11e2-95b3-272d604a10a3_story.html
I’ll use it on my next tax returns, I’ll redact the entire thing except for what they owe me.
I’m glad the government works for us. Imagine what would happen if they thought they governed us!
That seems a bit strange for a response to a FOIA request, since whatever is being delivered is supposed to be public, but whatever.
I work in the health industry now and all our FOIA’s, when seeking info on Medicare issues for example, come on a disk with a password protected .zip file, with a follow up letter with the password. All of them. Someone deemed there to be personal info or maybe just was not trained properly and is treating all FOIA’s the same.
As far as giving someone all redacted pages… welcome to Merika, now go away.
Re: Good protocol
Actually, it’s good protocol: All data on media that are to be taken off site must be encrypted, with keys transferred separately. If you leave it to the discretion of staff, there will be times when they get it wrong, and fail to encrypt sensitive data.
Not even redacted documents...these are fake
I don’t think the files were redacted so much as created. The whole pdf file was 5kB, which leads me to believe they just created a pdf file with a black background and the USC text they added.
The requester should sue for failure to fulfill the FOIA request as the IRS did not return any documents…they merely created fake documents.
Re: Not even redacted documents...these are fake
Easier said than done, lawyers don’t work for free.
The US Government Bureaucracy: One-Uppping Kafka since 1776.
FBI Drone Impact Assessment
Kind of like that FBI drone assessment where they redacted everything except the cover page, and then a couple of years later denied that the document even existed.
That was the IRS saying “Fuck You, we don’t give a fuck what you want ..you’ll get what we give you.. and you’ll like it.”
The real question
The real question that should be asked. Was the password “PASSWORD”
Is that the government version of “you got Rick-rolled”?
That would be sweet if he finally got the document opened up and the video started to play.
Well at least we know someone really got it into their heads that all data leaving the building must be encrypted.
This must be to illicit a “why bother” mentality from requestors. Frustrate enough times and people will stop asking.
It could have been worse. Imagine receiving thousands of completely blank documents. And being charged for every page.
No problem, if you are a GOOD GUY© you already have the secret GOLDEN KEY™ to open the file. Right?