Tag Archives: FOIA

And the Rosemary Award goes to . . . . National Intelligence Director James Clapper

By SB Anderson

The National Security Archive today bestowed its 2013 “Rosemary Award” for worst open government performance to National Intelligence Director James Clapper over the “whopper” he told to Congress.

Despite heavy competition, Clapper’s “No, sir” lie to Senator Ron Wyden’s question: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” sealed his receipt of the dubious achievement award, which cites the vastly excessive secrecy of the entire U.S. surveillance establishment.

Rose Mary Woods
Rose Mary Woods re-creates how she deleted parts of the tapes. SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons and Ford Library.

The award is named after Rose Mary Woods, Richard Nixon’s secretary who famously erased 18-1/2 key minutes of her boss’s secret White House tapes and as famously re-created how she did it.

Others joined Clapper in accolades as Clapper’s “fellow secrecy fetishists and enablers,” including NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander; FBI Director Robert Mueller; and National Security Division Lawyers.

Previous Rosemary winners include the Justice Department (back-to-back 2011 and 2012); FBI; Federal Chief Information Officers’ Council; the Department of Treasury; the Air Force and the CIA.

P.S. OTB wonders this every year: Why is it the “Rosemary” Award when it is named after Rose Mary (two words) Woods?

Failing grades for four key national security agencies in FOIA performance

By SB Anderson

FOIA scorecard by Center for Effective Government

SOURCE: Center for Effective Government.

Veterans Affairs, Defense, Homeland Security and State pulled up the rear in a review of Freedom of Information Act performance released last week. The Department of Justice was close to the top of the list with a B- grade in the report from the Center for Effective Government, which studied the 15 federal agencies that received the most information requests in 2012.

“The results are sobering,” the report said. “The low scores are not due to impossibly high expectations. In each of three performance areas, at least one agency earned an A, showing that excellence is possible. But the fact that no agency was able to demonstrate excellence across all three areas illustrates the difficulty agencies seem to be having in consistently combining all the elements of an effective disclosure policy.”

The agencies studied received 9 in every 10 FOIA request made, the report said. The analysis focused on three areas:

  1. Processing requests for information. (Performance on this made up half the grade).
  2. Establishing rules for information access.
  3. Creating user-friendly websites.

The five agencies with national security responsibilities only received five scores (out of 20) higher than a D. (See below).

Among the comments for each agency:

  • “Strong A grades for its FOIA website and updated disclosure policies propel the overall score for the Department of Justice (DOJ), earning a 95 percent and 92 percent, respectively. However, a 69 percent score in processing, the most heavily weighted section, keeps DOJ from achieving an overall A.”
  • “State’s FOIA struggles are fundamental, requiring long-term culture change.”
  • “DHS should maintain its focus on improving timeliness, including responding to simple requests within 20 days, and explore how to increase its rate of full grants to requesters.”
  • “The Department of Defense (DOD) receives failing grades for all three categories. . . :The agency’s low processing score can be improved by bringing down the average days the agency takes to respond to appeals, bringing down its request backlog, and increasing the percentage of requests fully granted.”
  • “The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) earned fairly low scores in all three sections of the scorecard. The VA’s 44 percent score in processing, though, is the area most in need of improvement. “
Individual grade breakdown for departments with national security responsibilities
FOIA scorecard by Center for Effective Government

SOURCE: Center for Effective Government

Download PDF | Read the full report right here after the jump. Continue reading

Deja vu: Little progress for national security related agencies in updating FOIA policies

By SB Anderson

Same headline as a year ago, unfortunately. The latest annual audit of federal agency compliance with updated Freedom of Information Act regulations showed no change among those involved in national security.

One national security related agency was added to the list for the first time — the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board — and it entered the charts in the top category, compliant with guidelines issued by the attorney general five years ago.

In its annual FOIA audit, the National Security Archive said only half of all agencies have made an updates since the end of 2007, when the OPEN Government Act was passed.

Below is the status of regulations at 14 agencies with national security responsibilities.

2104 FOIA audit

Data extracted from latest audit by the National Security Archive.

NSA FOIA requests explode in months since Snowden leaks began

By SB Anderson

Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the National Security Agency have boomed since Edward Snowden began leaking top-secret documents in June.

An internal document released last week to MuckRock showed 3,382 FOIA requests between June 6 and Sept, 14 of this year — nearly 12 times the 293 filed in that same period a year ago.

The requests have leveled off somewhat from earlier in the summer when the first media leaks appeared, although they continue to be much higher than normal. For perspective, for all of FY12 we received only 1809 requests,” the NSA said in its memo.

Change in NSA FOIA Requests

The hottest Pentagon FOIA requests in town

By SB Anderson

After learning from Cause of Action that the Pentagon now pulls out FOIA requests deemed “significant” (juicy enough to generate media attention, basically) and needing Big Cheese approval, Jason Leopold of The Public Record took the logical next step — asked to see the list.

Here’s what Cause of Action said was the policy:

A “significant” request is defined by the policy document as one where, in the judgment of a FOIA office, “the subject matter of the released documents may generate media interest and/or may be of interest or potential interest to DoD senior leadership.” This can include requests regarding “the current administration (including request for information on Senator Obama) previous administrations, and current or previous DoD leadership.”

Below, the list of “95 undated FOIA requests filed with the Army, Navy, Air Force, NSA, Defense Logistics Agency, Secretary of Defense, United States Southern Command, National Guard Bureau and other offices that had “Department Level Interest,” as Leopold put it.