by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
beryl howell, cia, foia

CIA Also Scolded By Court For 'Twisting The Factual Record' And Withholding Documents

from the guess-they-were-getting-lonely dept

So much of the attention about our abusive intelligence agencies has focused on the NSA. Even the FBI has been seeing some sunlight as its abusive practices have been revealed. But, amazingly, the CIA has been rather unscathed by all of this, even if the revelations of the intelligence black budget showed that the CIA was actually getting more money than the NSA (something most people thought was not true). However, in a story that has received not much attention, McClatchy reporters recently wrote about the CIA getting smacked around by Judge Beryl Howell in a DC district court (yes, that Beryl Howell).

Howell was not impressed by the CIA's attempt to keep certain documents under wraps:
In a recent decision, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell denounced several of the CIA’s legal arguments. At one point, she accused the CIA of a “shameless twisting of the factual record.” Other assertions by the agency, she called “dead wrong” and “implausible.”
The specific quote on the shameless twisting of the factual record concerned the CIA's attempt to portray a non-profit that had requested documents under a FOIA request as a for profit organization, because it sought funds on its website. This is similar to our recent report of the FBI arguing that FOIA service Muckrock wanted documents for commercial reasons. Basically, it looks like they'll look for any excuse. Of course, given the smackdown Judge Howell gave the CIA over this, the FBI may want to reconsider its letter to Muckrock:
The CIA appears to conclude that NSC is a for-profit entity based on the fact that “its website appears to solicit paying customers.”.... The mere earning of income, however, is not at all an indication that an entity is organized for profit. Even nonprofit organizations must pay their bills. The government, of all entities, should know that the difference between a for-profit corporation and a non-profit organization is not whether the entity earns income (or even whether it earns income at a profit). Rather, “[i]n contrast to a for profit corporation, a non-profit organization must utilize its earnings to finance the continued provision of the goods or services it furnishes, and may not distribute any surplus to the owners.” .... The CIA’s shameless twisting of the factual record in this case to portray their assignment of rights position in a better light falls short of the level of representation that this Court expects of a United States government agency. The CIA should know better than to make such an obviously unfounded argument, particularly in light of the many allegations of bad faith that have been leveled by the plaintiff in these cases, including allegations that prompted a nonfrivolous motion for sanctions.
Yes, we recognize that the intelligence community's default mode is to keep things secret. But that doesn't mean it gets to misrepresent and lie when confronted with a basic FOIA request. You expect a culture of deception to rise up in agencies whose main purpose is to deceive, but that's exactly why we need more transparency and strict oversight of their activities -- and that's something that we've fallen well short of achieving.

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    out_of_the_blue, 2 Oct 2013 @ 9:18am

    ALSO unscathed are these mega-corporations:

    Every company involved denied the most sensational assertion in the Prism documents: that the NSA pulled data "directly from the servers" of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL and more. Technology experts and a former government official say that phrasing, taken from a PowerPoint slide describing the program, was likely meant to differentiate Prism's neatly organized, company-provided data from the unstructured information snatched out of the Internet's major pipelines.In slide made public by the newspapers, NSA analysts were encouraged to use data coming from both Prism and from the fiber-optic cables. Prism, as its name suggests, helps narrow and focus the stream.

    There's PLENTY of CRIMES here, Mike. The country has PLENTY enough jails now filled with harmless dopers that can be emptied for co-conspirator executives and gov't officials, so don't be shy in calling for indictments and jail time.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2013 @ 10:38am

      Re: ALSO unscathed are these mega-corporations:

      Unrelated to current issue.

      No call for jail time is in the article.

      Nobody thinks those companies aren't guilty of sharing data with prism, but their acts are perpetuated by the government who is okay with that sharing of information. I'd read the article but I'm not surprised if you A) misinterpreted or misquoted it, or B) you're simply confusing a statement to mean more than it actually does, as with most of your conspiracy theories.

      Fix the government for its violations of the law and then you'll find people more willing to punish companies for violating the law as well. All there is to it.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2013 @ 12:07pm

    i wonder how quickly her 'take on things' will change when she gets her first 'copyright trial'? will the RIAA or MPAA be allowed to 'shamelessly twist the facts of a case to portray their assignment of rights position in a better light' and if she will say that in doing so, it falls short of the level of representation that this Court expects'? i suspect it will be no such thing. in fact she may go completely the other way and aid them in the representation.

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

    • identicon
      Pragmatic, 3 Oct 2013 @ 3:49am


      Of course not. Praise be unto Intellectual Property, the RIAA and the MPAA, for theirs is the Congress, the Senate and the USTPO. Amen. /s

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2013 @ 2:42pm

    To be honest, I'm surprised the judge sided with a non-profit civilian organization over the government. Maybe there's still a sliver of hope left for America's Judicial System.

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

  • icon
    JTReyn (profile), 2 Oct 2013 @ 4:46pm

    Another sequel to SPIES GONE WILD

    So now the CIA has its own version of SPIES GONE WILD. This "culture of deception" is the antithesis of everything America is supposed to stand for. None of the government employees seem to be very patriotic. They're instead consumed by the desire to know what's going on with everyone everywhere, as if that's a higher calling. Here's news: It isn't.
    But it's clear they're not going to stop. We have to take matters into our own hands. Makes ourselves "small" on the Internet. Start using encryption-equipped browsers and stop putting things on Dropbox, iCloud, etc. Stash everything in a Cloudlocker ( which works just the same but keeps your data at home where they still need a warrant to get it. They'll soon be a bunch of new tools like this coming out to protect us from the people supposed to protect us.

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

  • icon
    gorehound (profile), 2 Oct 2013 @ 4:53pm

    U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell is the ass who got a job and then pushed for the Copyright Maximalists.Used to work for the MAFIAA............

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 2 Oct 2013 @ 6:57pm

    Anyone else as shocked as I am that Judge Howell did this?

    On the upside, we've now learned exactly how far she is willing to let the copyright cartels go before she has a problem with them.

    Rest well campers, once someone leaks the cartels spying paperwork and they try to avoid owning up to it... she'll call them on that. until then its game on.

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

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