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Jack White’s Now Infamous Concert Rider Disclosed under Open Records Request – Not Leaked, CIA Needs 6 Years to Release Already Declassified Documents, and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 2/19/2015

February 19, 2015
NSANate calling out Facebook for conflating leaks and official disclosures.

NSANate calling out Facebook for conflating leaks and official disclosures.

Disclosed under open records law, not leaked, unlike NPRs claim.

Disclosed under open records law, not leaked, unlike NPRs claim.

Facebook recently promoted an article in its “trending” section concerning Jack White’s “leaked” tour demands, which included some odd guacamole requirements. News outlets like NPR jumped on the story, promoting the “leaked” angle. Unfortunately, few news organizations bothered to dig deeper; if they had, they would have found the tour demands were released in response to an open records request by the University of Oklahoma’s The Oklahoma Daily in an attempt to find out how much the school was paying for White’s performance, not leaked.

The CIA recently told a federal judge that it will need six years to release agency documents that are already declassified in response to a FOIA request from MuckRock. MuckRock requested the agency’s CREST database of 11.6 million declassified documents that are currently only available onsite at the National Archive’s College Park location in Maryland (about 250,000 pages are available on the CIA’s website), with the goal of placing the entire collection online. The CIA initially said it would take 28 years to release the set, but later announced it could release the documents in six years with only a “spot check” for classified information, again, even though the documents are already declassified. The agency also “insists” on conducting a manual review of the files to remove metadata, and burning all the records onto 1200 CDs even though the records would all fit on a single $60 external hard drive.

A series of documents posted by the National Security Archive in 2013 showing the National Security Agency (NSA) had “operations to disrupt, deny, degrade or destroy” computer information since 1997 (see our #tbt pick below for more) buoys Kaspersky Lab’s hints that the NSA is linked to the elite hacking group known as the Equation Group. Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity firm, reported details of the sophisticated hacking group and its long ties to the NSA this week at a conference in Mexico. Kaspersky determined the group found ways to permanently embed surveillance tools on foreign computers and networks, and has tools that are so sophisticated they infect the “firmware” (the embedded software that prepares a computer’s hardware before the operating system starts) – a hack that is beyond the reach of security controls and antivirus protections. Kaspersky “researchers stopped short of saying Equation Group was the handiwork of the NSA— but they provided detailed evidence that strongly implicates the US spy agency.”

Results of the NYT investigation.

Results of the NYT investigation.

The New York Times recently reported that the CIA secretly purchased and destroyed Iraqi chemical weapons from 2005 through 2006 as part of Operation Avarice, which was run out of its station in Baghdad. The operation, which was deemed a nonproliferation success, led to the acquisition and destruction of “at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.”

The US will drastically expand the Department of State’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications to streamline the US’ anti-ISIS propaganda. The expanded Center will eventually combine the disparate counter-messaging offices at the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and throughout the Intelligence Community, into one messaging platform. Critics of the Center note its paltry budget – $5 million a year – and that it has existed too independent of other federal agencies working to counter violent extremists.

Nick Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, suggested before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that the US’ current offensive against ISIS is not covered by “a 2001 military force authorization, which the White House has touted as its authority for waging war against the Islamic terror group.” Rasmussen said that while the 2001 authorization covered action against Al Qaeda, he was unclear if it applied to current operations. “I would defer to my lawyer friends, but I believe not,” he said.

Drones for sale! Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Drones for sale! Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Obama administration announced new rules this week that will allow the sale of armed drones to US allies. The rules, which remain classified, mandate the sales of such drones be made on a case-by-case basis, and that recipients agree to the US’s “proper use” principles – promising not to use the aircraft “to conduct unlawful surveillance or [for] unlawful force against their domestic populations.” The long-planned rules aren’t without their critics. In a 2012 letter Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) criticized such sales, noting “Despite the best intentions, we will not be able to guarantee that purchasers of U.S. UAVs [drones] will be able to develop the same level of intelligence to discriminate between potential targets,” and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko said drones “lower the threshold for when countries use armed force, and when you have that lower threshold, it can change the calculus of countries.”

The FAA recently published its draft rules governing commercial drone usage. The rules will make it “relatively simple for real estate agents, aerial photographers, police departments, farmers and anyone else to fly small drones for work purposes.” Businesses cannot, however, fly drones at night and must maintain eye contact with them. Drone operators and manufacturers will not be required to certify the drones are safe to fly. The White House simultaneously issued a new Presidential directive that will require federal agencies “to publicly disclose where they fly drones in the United States and what they do with the torrents of data collected from aerial surveillance.”

In the first ever court ruling on the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Poland must compensate two suspects who were detained at a CIA secret prison hosted there from 2002 to 2003. It remains unclear if the money – $262,000 – will be transferred directly to the plaintiffs, who are both currently held at Guantanamo.

A bit of good proactive disclosure news from NASA: the federal agency has announced that it will begin requiring all the $3 billion research it funds to be “published under open access rules via its own PubMed Central platform.” The National Institute of Health also uses the PubMed platform to the same ends, in accordance with best practice open government principles.

Nominations for the FOILIES – a contest run by the Sunlight Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation seeking “the most outrageous responses to Freedom of Information Act and state open records act requests” are due Friday, February 20th.  The Archive will be racking its collective brain for outstanding FOIA responses, and we encourage others to as well! Submit your FOILIES for consideration to foilies@eff.org with “FOILIES 2015 NOMINATION” in the subject line.

Today’s #tbt pick is chosen with the explosive Kaspersky report in mind, and is a Secret March 3, 1997, document by NSA official William B Black Jr., which notes the Secretary of Defense officially delegated authority to the NSA to develop Computer Network Attack (CNA) techniques. An August 14, 2006, Department of Defense directive defines CNAs as “operations to disrupt, deny, degrade or destroy information resident in computers and computer networks, or the computers and networks themselves.”

Thinking Out Loud About Cyberspace; an interesting title considering the NSAs secrecy about its cyber surveillance.

Thinking Out Loud About Cyberspace; an interesting title considering the NSA’s secrecy about its cyber surveillance.

Happy FOIA-ing!

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