by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
encryption, foia, irs, redaction

IRS Encrypts An Entire CD Of Redacted Documents In Response To FOIA Request

from the how-nice-of-them dept

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.

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