James Clapper's Office Hilariously Cites 'Privacy' Concerns In Blanket Denial To FOIA Request For NSA Reform Submissions

from the that-time-when-the-agency-suddenly-pretended-to-care dept

The NSA has received 28 submissions from contractors in regards to handling the logistics of the Section 215 collection's move to the private sector. As part of the administration's NSA reforms, the phone records database is being taken out of the agency's direct control and access limited to court-approved searches. But, as David Kravets at Wired's Threat Level discovered, the new (forced) transparency of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI -- better known as James Clapper's staff) remains largely opaque.

Kravets sent a FOIA request to the NSA for the submitted documents, something the wording of the agency's RFI (request for information) indicated would be made available for public viewing.

The RFI informs those responding to "ensure that the submitted material has been approved for public release," which, naturally, led WIRED to believe that the material would be released to the public. Two weeks ago we asked Clapper's office for submissions received under the RFI. We were told to file a Freedom of Information Act request. We did so.
Kravets has now received an answer from the agency. In short, you (Kravets -- and the American public) get nothing.
Jennifer Hudson, the ODNI chief FOIA officer, wrote WIRED saying the agency located 28 documents "responsive to your request," but:

Upon review, ODNI has determined the material should be withheld in its entirety in accordance with FOIA exemptions (b)(4) and (b)(6). Exemption (b)(4) applies to confidential proprietary information involving trade secrets and commercial data obtained from a company which, if released, would result in competitive harm to the company. Exemption (b)(6) applies to information which, if released, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy of individuals.
How amusing. The ODNI suddenly cares about privacy. Not so much about the privacy of millions of Americans whose metadata the NSA is harvesting continuously, but about the employees of the companies that voluntarily chose to respond to a request for information from the ODNI's office. (And did so knowing that the information might be released publicly.)

The ODNI obviously is still more comfortable issuing blanket denials and reams of redacted pages than it is with being even slightly transparent. Let's not forget that the documents released by the ODNI (mostly in reference to the Sec. 215 collection) weren't done with transparency in mind, no matter how Clapper phrases the preamble attached to every document dump. These documents were pried loose thanks to a lawsuit against the government.

In the ODNI's hands, "privacy" is nothing more than an occasionally useful concept. The ODNI doesn't care about the privacy of Americans because protecting that privacy provides no value to the agency. But when it's most self-serving, the agency will "care" about privacy of some Americans. The only thing "transparent" here is the ODNI's hypocrisy.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 27th, 2014 @ 12:49pm

    Wired clearly misunderstood

    The documents are supposed to be suitable for public release not because admitted liar Clapper has any intention of releasing them, but because with the way the leaks are going, he expects they will leak out at some point, and would like not to have them be too embarrassing when that happens.

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

  2. icon
    AricTheRed (profile), Feb 27th, 2014 @ 1:06pm

    was thinking about Harold Ramis when I started reding this bit.

    "In short, you (Kravets -- and the American public) get nothing."

    And suddenly it hit me, Caddy Shack. They think we are the judges spoiled kid,

    Spalding: I want a hamburger. No, cheeseburger. I want a hot dog. I want a milkshake. I want potato chips

    [gets cut off by Judge Smails]

    Judge Smails: You'll get nothing, and like it!

    It could easily be We The People this time.

    People: I want transparency. I want integrity. No, I want my constitutionally guaranteed rights

    [gets cut off by the liar and traitor, James "The Clap" Clapper]

    The Clap: You'll get nothing, and like it!

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

  3. icon
    A World Citizen (profile), Feb 27th, 2014 @ 1:11pm

    It's pretty simple, really

    With recent court decisions declaring that privacy is not violated until people know about it, telling the public how and what information is being collected and stored would in itself constitute an invasion of privacy.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 27th, 2014 @ 1:11pm

    So the privacy rights of corporations, outweigh the privacy rights of ordinary citizens? Am I reading the alleged felonious liar's statement correctly?

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 27th, 2014 @ 1:21pm

    Can we just get the metadata? That's harmless, right?

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 27th, 2014 @ 2:04pm

    You can't get more Orwellian and Newspeaky than this. We can't unveil we're spying on you for your "privacy". Disgusting.

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 27th, 2014 @ 2:17pm


    I think the most insightful part about it was actually the pairing, (b)(4) was trade secrets. So clearly they value corporate "personal" privacy over actually-pay-taxes and vote people privacy. Somehow I suspect that said information is going to turn out to be "Oh yeah, we stole that information and gave it to our buddies so they could steal trade secrets." That would be invading the guilty party's privacy.

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

  8. icon
    beltorak (profile), Feb 27th, 2014 @ 3:46pm

    guys guys guys - we're missing something. We were just given a huge gift by the spooks! The GCHQ, possibly in partnership with the NSA, couldn't come up with an effective porn filter. So what does PM Cameron think the ISPs can do? Magic up an algorithm that (arguably) their best mathematicians failed to create? All that computing power and we still can't come up with a fool-proof program to (100%) accurately distinguish between "twat" and "not twat". Maybe they will open source it and sell it (SaaS style) to the ISPs! Then we can *all* help stomp out fapping forever!!

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

  9. icon
    beltorak (profile), Feb 27th, 2014 @ 3:47pm


    ugh; wrong article; how embarrassing

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 27th, 2014 @ 3:59pm

    That's bad news. It means NSA bosses live in atlernative universe of paranoia, and are unable to reform themselves.

    They are already paralized by Snowden docs mess. Think of thousands of workhours to analyse Snowden aftermath alone.

    They still have legitimate task of checking on Russians and Chinese to do.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 27th, 2014 @ 4:11pm

    what do you expect from the office of the biggest liar involved in the spying saga? the double standard is good when you're the one using it!

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

  12. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), Feb 27th, 2014 @ 6:50pm

    Nothing new about this

    This is one of several self-serving tactics the government uses every time something is requested by FOIA that the government doesn't want to release. It's a little suprising to see it in this context, since there's a question of whose privacy could possibly be breached, but...

    Suppose there is a dispute between the government and Joe Doakes:

    If the government is being asked for information of its actions related to Joe, and that information is embarrassing to the government then, "The information cannot be released because doing so would infringe Joe's right of privacy."

    But suppose the government has some information that would embarrass Joe in the dispute: The government hands it out at a press conference, saying afterward, "Joe has privacy?"

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

  13. identicon
    anon, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 2:29am

    laugh out loud

    This stupidity will just encourage more Snowdon's, there are going to be people everywhere that do not agree with illegal actions by the NSA and their cohorts, and i would be surprised if these documents and others are not eventually released to the world via a real anonymous contributor. We all know the NSA is too big and has too many people with access to sensitive documents, all it takes is or more like snowdon to anonymously release data for them to lose all secrecy.

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

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 7:22am

    Can I redact everything the NSA gets from spying on me, and cite Clapper's reasoning?

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 10:32am

    The next time you ask for info from your government, remember, its for national security, which it bloody well is, secure in knowing that our beloved leaders are doing things in the best interests of their BOSS, the PEOPLE........instead of, you know, completely treating their rights like shit

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

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