The NSA Has Found a New Way to Categorically Deny FOIA Requests
By Brendan O'Connor, Gizmodo, Jan. 26, 2017
The notoriously secretive National Security Agency is raising “security concerns” to justify an apparent new policy of pre-emptively denying Freedom of Information Act requests about the agency’s contractors.
The policy was cited by John R. Chapman, the agency’s chief FOIA public liaison officer, in a letter to Gizmodo on January 17, 2017, three days before Donald Trump’s inauguration. In explaining that the agency had declined to even conduct a search for records about a company called SCL Group, Chapman wrote, “Please be advised that due to changing security concerns, this is now our standard response to all requests where we reasonably believe acquisition records are being sought on a contract or contract-related activity.”
The response appears to indicate that the NSA will no longer release—or even search for—any records pertaining to the private contractors it works with. SCL Group is a U.K.-based behavioral research firm that has reportedly worked with the Department of Defense in the past; its subsidiary Cambridge Analytica was a central component of the Trump campaign’s winning strategy.
Several FOIA experts contacted by Gizmodo said they had never heard of such a denial before.
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