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Since Snowden Leaks, NSA's FOIA Requests Are Up 1,000 Percent

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the checking-the-list dept.

Government 47

v3rgEz writes "A veritable FOIA frenzy ensued in 2013 following a series of leaks about NSA surveillance programs, recently released documents show. From June 6 to September 4, the National Security Agency's FOIA load increased 1,054 percent over its 2012 intake. In that three-month span, the agency received 3,382 public records requests. For comparison, the NSA received just 293 requests over the same period in 2012. While a few have netted new details about NSA surveillance operations, such as a contract with French security firm VUPEN, the majority appear to have been rejected. MuckRock has a guide on filing with the NSA to maximize your chances of actually getting something back."

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47 comments

Hey, more FOIA requests Obama can ignore! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45063759)

Yep, most transparent administration in history

Re:Hey, more FOIA requests Obama can ignore! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45063835)

Yep, most transparent administration in history

Their claim stands, no administration in history has been so stealthy in setting up their lambs to be sent to the slaughter.

Re:Hey, more FOIA requests Obama can ignore! (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 6 months ago | (#45063909)

Their claim stands, no administration in United States history has been so stealthy in setting up their lambs to be sent to the slaughter

Fixed that for you.

Re:Hey, more FOIA requests Obama can ignore! (4, Insightful)

cheater512 (783349) | about 6 months ago | (#45064717)

Hey it is the most transparent administration in history!

It just says more about previous administrations than anything else.

Churchill (1)

BadPirate (1572721) | about 6 months ago | (#45065289)

Hey it is the most transparent administration in history!

It just says more about previous administrations than anything else.

“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”

Re:Churchill (4, Informative)

s.petry (762400) | about 6 months ago | (#45066183)

The US is not a Democracy, it's a Democratic Republic. You may be aware of that and just took a common short cut and called it Democracy, but the difference is vast. Democracy is the rule of mob and a Republic is a rule of law. Both of these forms of Government, in addition to most others, were discussed 2,500 or so years ago by the same person that came up with the Republic named Socrates.

If the original design of a Republic was followed, it would be superb. The problem is that it's difficult to keep human nature out of the equation. The original design required term limits, a strong education system, and no political class. The best Philosophers, as defined by Socrates, would be the only ones allowed to represent the citizens of the Republic.

If you think the pains that the US Government has gone through to make people ignorant to Philosophy and Rhetoric are accidental, you are not even trying to look. People are not introduced to Philosophy until College and that's only if they choose to take the class. Most Universities will discourage the class and push students toward Humanities (Social Studies). Most US Citizens have never read "The Republic" and have no idea that this was the blueprint for their Government.

Re:Churchill (0)

cold fjord (826450) | about 6 months ago | (#45066727)

That was a quote from Sir Winston Churchill, and it still applies.

Re:Churchill (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 6 months ago | (#45071859)

To where? There are no plain democracies in the world, and never have been. Churchill may have been a fine motivator, but the quote and statement you made are both technically incorrect. If it was a small thing, I would just be pedantic. It's a huge thing however, and worth making sure people understand the difference.

Re:Churchill (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 6 months ago | (#45077399)

The problem seems to be that the founders envisioned three independent bodies [legislative, executive, judicial] that can keep an eye on each other. But now, all three bodies are controlled by the same group.

Re:Churchill (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 6 months ago | (#45082667)

There was also a separation of powers between Federal, State, and Local levels which has been destroyed. It's kind of a chicken and egg scenario is to what came first, but they have both been happening for a very long time. Hence, our current shitty State of the Union.

B- (1)

BadPirate (1572721) | about 6 months ago | (#45065273)

http://www.wcl.american.edu/lawandgov/cgs/about.cfm#scorecard [american.edu] -- Kind of a useless measurement if it's not comparative, but there is LOTS of data there, and most of it indicates that despite the fact that the NSA spying programs were "revealed" during Obama's administration (they existed for Bush too!) -- There are good signs that the government is taking steps towards better transparency as promised, and progress in this area has been ongoing, making the "most transparent" statement a true one, but leaving a long way to go to be desired.

Re:Hey, more FOIA requests Obama can ignore! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45065513)

Good thing you voted for him twice huh? Don't lie...

This reveals the major problem with the FOIA... (5, Informative)

intermodal (534361) | about 6 months ago | (#45063775)

Without Snowden, the people submitting these FOIA requests wouldn't have known what to request, which basically kills the point of actually making the requests. FOIA requires unduly high burden on the requester to actually already know (at least in part) what they're looking for. It's not really written to create transparency, but the illusion of transparency.

Re:This reveals the major problem with the FOIA... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45063893)

FOIA requires unduly high burden on the requester to actually already know (at least in part) what they're looking for. It's not really written to create transparency, but the illusion of transparency.

Illusion? Hardly. Whats more transparent than invisible?

Re:This reveals the major problem with the FOIA... (4, Funny)

guttentag (313541) | about 6 months ago | (#45065615)

Illusion? Hardly. Whats more transparent than invisible?

Your Guide To Tape:
Red Tape [wikipedia.org] not transparent all
Transparent Tape [officemax.com] sort of but not very transparent
Magic Tape [officemax.com] like Transparent Tape, but Magic
Invisible Tape [officemax.com] almost transparent
Nixon Tape [wikipedia.org] so transparent it erases

A. Nixon Tape is more transparent than Invisible Tape

Re:This reveals the major problem with the FOIA... (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about 6 months ago | (#45064565)

Can you request an index of FOIAable documents?

Re:This reveals the major problem with the FOIA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45064635)

They'll just get around that by compiling the list at a slower rate than it grows.

Re:This reveals the major problem with the FOIA... (2)

Christoph (17845) | about 6 months ago | (#45064819)

FOIA and similar state laws generally do not require the government to CREATE data, such as an index like you describe.

Re:This reveals the major problem with the FOIA... (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 6 months ago | (#45069079)

No, the FOIA only involves the disclosure of existing data, not the creation of data to facilitate public disclosure.

Re:This reveals the major problem with the FOIA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45064881)

FOIA requires unduly high burden on the requester to actually already know (at least in part) what they're looking for.

I don't know if this is an "unduly high" burden to know what you are looking for.

You want to allow FOIA requests that ask for "Give me things I haven't thought about yet"?

Re:This reveals the major problem with the FOIA... (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 6 months ago | (#45069009)

My problem is the way the government hides secrets behind secrets behind secrets, preventing the questions from being asked in the first place.

Re:This reveals the major problem with the FOIA... (1)

evenmoreconfused (451154) | about 6 months ago | (#45065041)

How about a new law explicitly insisting that ALL government data, except for personal data covered by privacy laws, must be made public within (e.g.) 24 hours. Exceptions only on a similar basis to the way warrants are done now: apply before a judge and get an x-month publication ban (x not to exceed say 72 months, except for real state secrets, where it could be longer).

Re:This reveals the major problem with the FOIA... (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 6 months ago | (#45068939)

We'd have to be pretty specific about what "made public" means, as well as "government data" and "personal data", but I think that's a good start.

Re:This reveals the major problem with the FOIA... (1)

iamgnat (1015755) | about 6 months ago | (#45069171)

except for real state secrets, where it could be longer).

And just how much of what the NSA does do you think isn't categorized as "state secrets"? Who is going to judge what really is a state secret? The same ones that approved the things we're already complaining about?

All such a law would do is make clueless people feel better, give incumbents a "see what I did for your benefit" talking point, and generate more work and cost for government offices to comply with it (even the ones that still aren't being honest).

I'm not saying that I wouldn't want such a thing to exist, i'm just pointing out the reality that it won't have the desired effect and will in fact just result in a lot of waste.

Increased by 1000 (or 500, etc) percent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45063817)

I regard that as a tipoff for sensationalist reporting.

Obviously, the NSA is going to get a lot more requests because they were in the news constantly on that issue for a several week span. Before that, many people had never heard of them, or barely knew what they did. Still, 3,382 requests in a three-month span doesn't sound like all that much.

Re:Increased by 1000 (or 500, etc) percent (1)

intermodal (534361) | about 6 months ago | (#45063897)

Still, 3,382 requests in a three-month span doesn't sound like all that much.

Maybe not to you, but that's where the value of the comparison you are so quick to dismiss comes into play.

Re:Increased by 1000 (or 500, etc) percent (2)

penix1 (722987) | about 6 months ago | (#45064435)

Still, 3,382 requests in a three-month span doesn't sound like all that much.

Maybe not to you, but that's where the value of the comparison you are so quick to dismiss comes into play.

Not only that, but if you have never had to respond to one then you really don't know what is involved. It is gathering all requested documents within the time limit the laws (yes, there are differing state FOIA laws) allow as well as knowing what is exempt in those laws and should not be disclosed. There is the tedious process of redacting documents of data not covered as well as preparing the deliverable. It isn't as easy as you would think.

There are legitimate reasons to deny a FOIA request that the law allows for like it or not. National Security is one of those reasons.

Re: Increased by 1000 (or 500, etc) percent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45068543)

"Not only that, but if you have never had to respond to one then you really don't know what is involved. It is gathering all requested documents within the time limit the laws (yes, there are differing state FOIA laws) allow as well as knowing what is exempt in those laws and should not be disclosed."

In theory, yes, but has anyone managed to get more than a boilerplate "we are exempt, blah blah blah, request denied" response to a FOIA request from the NSA?

Re:Increased by 1000 (or 500, etc) percent (5, Insightful)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 6 months ago | (#45063921)

I'm fine with sensationalistic reporting on this issue.

We have CNN reporting more on political calculations of both sides in the shutdown, as if that's news.

We have "reporting" on "concerns" one side or the other has of the other side harming themselves politically on myriad issues, not just this, all treated as on the level rather than facetiousness incarnate.

We have polls and BS like Sinead worrying about Miley, another excuse to show her naked body on a wrecking ball.

None of this will be of concern, or even remembered, in a few years.

Loss of freedom because an uncontrolled spy system was abused by politicians to spy on political opponents will be.

Tomorrow's news (5, Insightful)

Doug Otto (2821601) | about 6 months ago | (#45063839)

"Government use of black toner up 1000 percent!"

Re:Tomorrow's news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45063943)

All requests denied due to no one getting paid.

Re:Tomorrow's news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45064355)

"Government use of black toner up 1000 percent!"

god damn that was funny!

Re:Tomorrow's news (1)

Nugoo (1794744) | about 6 months ago | (#45064461)

While funny, your comment is true if and only if the government uses 100% of its black toner for FOIA responses. More to the point, it's irrelevant how much of each response is redacted.

Re:Tomorrow's news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45069053)

More to the point, it's irrelevant how much of each response is redacted.

You are assuming that the percent that is redacted is constant, which is unlikely. You see, a request that doesn't know enough what to ask is likely to get a response along the lines of "Nothing we have matches your query." While stuff about PRISM, etc. would be more like: The project PRISM can be outlined as . In sum, it allows us to .

It takes a lot of ink to black out 12 pages of stuff.

Re:Tomorrow's news (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 6 months ago | (#45066729)

"Government use of black toner up 1000 percent!"

More like 1250 percent. Redactions take extra toner.

Ask them... (1)

ShaunC (203807) | about 6 months ago | (#45063951)

...for a list of everyone whose communications they've intercepted this year. That ought to keep their printers tied up for awhile.

"special" access (3, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | about 6 months ago | (#45064137)

shouldn't take too long to print out one page saying " ALL of them"

They just filter Congress from the copy they send to the Israelis.
And Goldman-Sachs from the copy the SEC gets.


They should just open source the data and let reddit crowdsource the terrerist finding. /snrk!
Hey, "if you're not doing anything wrong, you've nothing to hide"(tm), right?

Non-essential (1)

LordLucless (582312) | about 6 months ago | (#45064393)

Doesn't matter - know what your government is doing in your name with your money is deemed unessential, so none will be answered during the shutdown anyway.

Re:Non-essential (1)

plopez (54068) | about 6 months ago | (#45066753)

In addition, during budget negotiations such non-essential services will not be reviewed for candidacy to be re-funded. After all we have tax cuts to the wealthy and price supports for gerbil farmers to think of.

It's fixed! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45064555)

So they fixed the fax machine then?

One Thousand Percent? (2)

p00kiethebear (569781) | about 6 months ago | (#45066051)

Interesting how this journalist figured out that 'one thousand percent' sounds a hell of a lot bigger than 'tenfold' or 'ten times as many.' Hope he's getting paid the big bucks.

1% (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45074877)

doesn't seem to be that much.

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