Yet Again, A Freedom Of Information Act Request Results In LESS Information Being Freed

from the the-ODNI-will-be-around-shortly-to-redact-your-brain dept

Intelligence agencies seem to make some very un-intelligent decisions. Just last month, James Clapper told NSA employees they were no longer free to talk to the media in an extremely misguided attempt to head off future leaks.

Now, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has seen fit to issue a redacted document, which in itself is not an unusual event. The problem here is that the unredacted version, originally published by the ODNI itself, has been in the public domain for years now.

Last month, ODNI issued a heavily redacted version of its Intelligence Community Directive 304 on “Human Intelligence.” The redacted document was produced in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Robert Sesek, and posted on ScribD.

The new redactions come as a surprise because most of the censored text had already been published by ODNI itself in an earlier iteration of the same unclassified Directive from 2008. That document has since been removed from the ODNI website but it is preserved on the FAS website here.
So, why would it do this? Steven Aftergood at FAS Secrecy News suspects it might be the ODNI caving to the CIA's desire to keep everything a secret.
A comparison of the redacted and unredacted versions shows that ODNI is now seeking to withhold the fact that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency functions as the National HUMINT Manager, among other things.
The CIA is only rivaled by the New York Police Department in terms of unresponsiveness to FOIA requests. That it would demand information related to its "super-secret" HUMINT (human intelligence) work be redacted isn't a surprise. That it would have no idea that this information is out in the open is a bit more surprising. But considering the government's extremely scattershot approach to overclassification, it is not entirely unexpected.

The entire document is marked as "Unclassified," which means there's very little reason to have any of this redacted, especially considering its previous official, unredacted release. The CIA isn't the only agency to have its information withheld, although that is probably more a product of what the redacted statement says, rather than an indication of the other agencies' desire for secrecy. The sections for both the FBI and the Defense Department have this sentence blacked out.
Collects, analyzes, produces, and disseminates foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information, including information obtained through clandestine means.
Apparently, the ODNI would prefer that no one know (enemies or citizens) these agencies secure information through "clandestine means," which is something everyone expects the CIA to be doing, if not the FBI.

The exemption stated [b(3)] is bit strange itself. It's supposedly limited to information that is subject to other statutes prohibiting the information's disclosure. Whatever that unnamed statute is, it must have gone into effect at some point between 2009 (the latest date on the unredacted version) and last month. Or, more likely, the exemption was just a handy excuse for blotting out the CIA's involvement in this particular form of intelligence gathering, one the ODNI won't have to explain until the end of the year when it (like all government agencies) must list the statutes used to justify b(3) redactions.

This is just another example of the greatest irony of the FOIA Act. The ODNI publishes a completely unredacted version on its own site but when a citizen asks for a copy, it redacts half the document. A Freedom of Information Act response creates an information deficit. That makes sense.




Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    RD, May 15th, 2014 @ 3:20pm

    The Reason?

    There is a very simple reason why it is now redacted: Someone Wants It. When its just a pile of documents gathering dust, they dont care. When its something someone wants and could use in some way, then its a "problem."

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2014 @ 3:22pm

    quote

    "Collects, analyzes, produces, and disseminates foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information, including information obtained through clandestine means."

    Apparently, the ODNI would prefer that no one know (enemies or citizens) these agencies secure information through "clandestine means," which is something everyone expects the CIA to be doing, if not the FBI.

    endquote

    Maybe the problem is with 'produces and disseminates', namely they wish everyone wouldn't notice that they are actively giving intelligence information away to friends-of-the-day (aka "tomorrow's terrorists").

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2014 @ 3:39pm

    How much time money and techdirt bandwidth (which I assume will soon be part of the more expenive but still completely open and fair FastLaneInterWeb) would it save if these agencies just tagged documents with the released version so that if it turned up in a search again they could provide exactly the same thing they did last time.

    Unless of course the problem is that who is asking for the document in some way effects the level of paranoia.

     

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

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2014 @ 3:58pm

      Re:

      "How much time money and techdirt bandwidth (which I assume will soon be part of the more expenive but still completely open and fair FastLaneInterWeb) would it save if these agencies just tagged documents with the released version so that if it turned up in a search again they could provide exactly the same thing they did last time."

      Depends. When the government starts treating the citizens with the respect they deserve, there will be less need for such discussions. Eh?

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 15th, 2014 @ 3:43pm

    They must think they are so clever trying to keep everything secret, but the more they do that, the higher the chance that another Snowden will happen who will just take *all* documents and release them on the wild.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous, May 15th, 2014 @ 4:07pm

    Support the troops! They're fighting for your freedom!
    (sarcasm)

     

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

  •  
    icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), May 15th, 2014 @ 8:05pm

    New offisial policy

    "We can remove anything we want from the public domain. In fact, we are removing the letters CIA from the public domain. Hereafter, any word containing the letters CIA must be either redacted or the letters replaced by SIA.

    "We realize this will result in some artifisial-looking words. It will also require some superfisial correction or redaction of existing documents.

    "Be warned: This is now offisial policy, and our technisians will be search carefully for any violations to be turned over to the judisiary."

     

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


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