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: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.)
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.
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.