The CIA’s Plan to Destroy its Email Records, Judge Scolds Govt. for Redacting Portions of Drone Doc Containing “Not a Whit of Classified Material,” and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 11/6/2014
The National Security Archive joined 16 other groups this week in asking the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to deny the CIA’s request for increased authority to destroy its email records. Steven Aftergood first reported the CIA proposal, and NARA’s tentative agreement, to allow the agency the authority to destroy all emails sent by non-senior officials at the agency this October. The proposal, now open for public comment, was announced in the Federal Register on September 17 — just one day before the agency posted a trove of articles to its website only after a District Court judge admonished it for erecting needless and lengthy hurdles to its electronic records. The Archive and its colleagues ask NARA to postpone a final decision on the CIA’s request until, at the very least, NARA reviews a sample of CIA emails to ensure that no unique, historically valuable material will be destroyed; the CIA finally answers NARA’s requests to account for its 2005 destruction of videotapes showing waterboarding and other torture methods, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence publishes the Executive Summary of its study of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program.
The Southern District Court of New York reached a partial decision in a pair of concurrent FOIA lawsuits for government documents on drone killings this week, and ordered a set of legal opinions from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel to be released (the remaining documents will be ruled on later). Presiding Judge Colleen McMahon said in a memo accompanying the order “I disagree with the Government’s redaction of the bulk of the first full paragraph and the second and third paragraphs on page 9, which as drafted by this court contain not a whit of classified material (the Government does not suggest otherwise), and which I do not believe would tend to reveal any classified information.”
Jason Leopold has posted a new batch of FBI documents on Samir Khan, the North Carolina man killed in the same 2011 CIA drone strike that killed U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki, to his new FOIA blog for Vice News, Primary Sources. One document detailing the bureau’s Charlotte field office request to monitor Kahn via Closed Circuit Television from a location where “there would not be a reasonable expectation of privacy” argues that because the monitoring would be done in public and “because Khan was the subject of a criminal investigation ‘the provisions of the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Foreign Intelligence and Foreign Counterintelligence investigations do not apply,’” and the FBI therefore wouldn’t need a warrant from a surveillance court to monitor Khan. The 250 pages of heavily redacted documents further “reveal that the bureau had grown increasingly concerned over Khan’s anti-American screeds posted to his blog and determined he was a serious threat.” The FBI withheld the remaining 700 pages on the grounds that their release would harm national security.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is reporting, in a move some advocates call religious profiling, that Muslim communities nationwide are facing increased pressure by the FBI to produce informants to help the law enforcement agency fight Islamic extremism. While an FBI spokesperson says the bureau is operating under standard procedure, attorney Jennifer Wicks with CAIR’s civil rights department counters “the FBI’s over-broad and coercive use of informants in mosques, reports of outreach meetings being used for intelligence gathering and other acts of abuse demonstrate that community leaders should engage legal professionals to ensure the protection of their rights and those of their congregations.”
Facebook’s latest transparency report reveals government requests worldwide for the site’s user data increased 24% in the last six months, with U.S. government requests accounting for nearly half. The company reported it complied with 80% of requests for user information.
In the wake of former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette’s publication of his book of the raid to kill Osama bin Laden, “No Easy Day,” which is still being investigated for its possible disclosure of classified material, the SEALs are warning its members “not to disclose classified information for publicity or cash.” Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently “scolded” Bissonnette for publishing his account of the raid, even though while he was CIA director Panetta gave his “full approval/support” to granting Hollywood filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal extensive access to CIA files and personnel for their film on the raid to capture Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty, despite the fact most of these files remain classified and shielded from the public.
U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Ted Branch, head of Naval intelligence, hasn’t been allowed to view classified information for over a year in connection to bribery scandal concerning the contracting firm Glenn Defense Marine Asia. This means that Branch cannot attend intelligence briefs, that he must leave the room if classified intelligence is discussed, and that subordinates’ offices must be scrubbed of classified material before he visits. According to Defense News, “In the year since, no charges have been filed and there is no sense of when they might be, leaving the Navy in an untenable situation.”
The DOD has been forced to scale back its plans to assemble an overseas spy agency, the Defense Clandestine Service, initially intended to rival the CIA. Plans for the service “called for moving as many as 1,000 undercover case officers overseas to work alongside the CIA and the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command on counterterrorism missions and other targets of broad national security concern.” That number has been cut to 500 after opposition from lawmakers who found such a large program uneconomical and unnecessary.
In a recent posting for Unredacted, Archive Deputy Director Malcolm Byrne addresses one of the lingering mysteries from the Iran-Contra scandal: who leaked the original story of the Reagan administration’s secret negotiations with Iran over the fate of American hostages being held by forces in Lebanon? In the posting Byrne debunks a recently declassified CIA Studies in Intelligence article that theorized the Syrian regime was responsible for the leaks.
This week’s #tbt document pick is chosen to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the animated version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which the CIA helped fund as part of its anti-Communist propaganda campaign. Specifically, this week’s #tbt pick is a CIA article excerpted from a larger classified draft study that documents the agency’s Congress for Cultural Freedom, which, along with helping fund Animal Farm, tried to advance American ideology abroad during the 1950s by funding artistic endeavors, including Britain’s Encounter magazine, the Paris Review, and spending millions to subsidize NYC’s abstract expressionist movement.