Dozens of Unclassified Clinton Emails Redacted in State Department Release, “Massive Cache” of Photos from CIA “Black Sites” Discovered, and Much More: FRINFORMSUM 7/2/2015
The State Department released 3,000 pages of emails from Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State at 9 PM on Tuesday night, and ultimately redacted portions of two dozen emails – even going out of its way to fully redact a 16-page speech Clinton gave to the Council of Foreign Relations in 2009 using the “withhold it because you want to” Exemption 5. The State Department hid this unclassified document in its entirety despite the incredibly high public interest in the records and Clinton’s expressed desire to see all of the emails released in full. Archive FOIA Project Director Nate Jones said using the oft-abused Exemption 5 to withhold this document is an “egregious waste of time and money.” All of the redacted emails are unclassified, and while “their contents were apparently not sensitive enough to national security at the time to have required a higher classification status” they must now, confoundingly, be redacted in part or in full.
In anticipation of the State Department’s release, open government advocates argued it would be important to see how much the emails were redacted pursuant to both the”withhold it because you want to” Exemption 5 and the national security exemption. Jones told Vice News’ Jason Leopold prior to the release that the amount withheld “should be very little. The emails were unclassified, so if will be eyebrow-raising if any more content is retroactively classified by State.” Unfortunately, a few eyebrows have indeed been raised.
Most of the released documents focus on day-to-day scheduling conflicts and Clinton navigating the new administration. None concern Benghazi (Clinton previously provided the House Benghazi Committee a separate batch of 847 documents, which call into question the extent of her reliance on adviser Sidney Blumenthal).
A State Department spokesman, John Kirby, insisted that in spite of its late hour, the timing of the release was not intended to minimize media coverage; rather, it was a result of a federal judge’s instructions that the Department release the first batch of the 55,000 pages of documents Hillary Clinton returned to the State Department by Tuesday. The judge had additionally set the State Department the task of releasing seven percent of the 55,000 pages for the first release, a mark the Department fell nearly one thousand pages short of.
The State Department expects to finish releasing the Clinton emails by January 26, 2016.
The discovery of the existence of a “massive cache” of photos – nearly 14,000 – of the CIA’s “black site” prisons, primarily in Poland, Afghanistan, and Thailand, is expected to complicate ongoing Guantanamo trials. The discovery was made while military prosecutors reviewed the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s torture program and “learned there were more pictures available than those contained in the full report.” The defense attorneys for Guantanamo detainees Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Zubaydah, and Waleed bin Attash, said that they had yet to be informed about the existence of the photographs. Zubaydah’s attorney, Joe Margulies, said, “Why is it we are still learning about this stuff? Who knows what is still out there? What else is there? That’s what is appalling.”
CIA director John Brennan recently confirmed that despite the agency’s long-standing pledge to diversify its workplace, the CIA is failing at recruiting minorities and promoting minorities into senior executive positions. The CIA has lost ground recruiting black employees since 2004, despite increased recruitment from 1984 to 2004, and “Racial and ethnic minorities — defined by the CIA as anyone other than whites of European descent — comprise 23.9 percent of the entire workforce, but they are below 20 percent of the elite job categories of operations officer and intelligence analyst.” Most strikingly, the CIA’s senior executives are comprised of only 10.8 percent minorities. Brennan noted that although the agency has vowed to increase diversity before, “We’re not kidding. This is real, this time.”
Recorded Future, a company backed by the CIA’s venture capital arm In-Q-Tel, has found logins and passwords for 47 government agencies across the internet. According to reporting, Recorded Future, a social data mining and “threat intelligence” company, deployed software that scanned more than 680,000 web sites and found the credentials “in plain sight, on what are called paste sites such as Pastebin.” The Associated Press notes, “at least 12 agencies don’t require authentication beyond passwords to access their networks, so those agencies are vulnerable to espionage and cyberattacks.”
Even though the CIA has yet to respond to the National Security Archive’s 2014 FOIA request for information on its Osama bin Laden doll, codenamed “Devil Eyes,” a model was auctioned off by the Nate D. Sanders auction house last week. In June 2014 a Washington Post article revealed that the agency had plans to make the scary doll – whose face was designed to frighten children and painted with “a heat-dissolving material, designed to peel off and reveal a red-faced bin Laden who looked like a demon, with piercing green eyes and black facial markings” – and to distribute them in Afghanistan or Pakistan. In response to our FOIA, the CIA said it was busy processing a similar request for another requester, and would notify us when processing was complete. So far not a word. The son of Donald Levine, however, a former executive at Hasbro who helped design the doll, auctioned off one of three known copies of the doll last week. Another doll sold last year for $11,879. Levine also helped create a board game called Snakes and Ladders, which features “comical” depictions of “prominent terror leaders such as Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.”
There is a potential conflict brewing between the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). Earlier this week FISA ruled that the National Security Agency (NSA) may continue its bulk collection of domestic American phone records for the next six months – the timeline stipulated in the USA Freedom Act to allow agencies and phone companies to move to a new system wherein phone companies will store the records, not the government. The ACLU said in response to the FISA ruling, however, “that it would ask the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which had ruled [May 7th] that the surveillance program was illegal, to issue an injunction to halt the program.” The Second Circuit stopped short of issuing an injunction halting the collection in May, instead deferring to the then-ongoing USA Freedom Act debate. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Or.) condemned the FISA ruling, saying “I see no reason for the Executive Branch to restart bulk collection, even for a few months. This illegal dragnet surveillance violated Americans’ rights for fourteen years without making our country any safer.”
The Clinton Library has digitized a number of declassified document collections on topics including US-Russia relations, Iran, and Kosovo, and posted them to their website this week. Matthew Aid reported that among the releases, “There is also a special collection of documents about genocide in the former Yugoslavia, the war on terrorism, and a mildly interesting collection concerning Osama bin Laden.”
The National Security Archive and the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP) published documents this week that shed light on the step-by-step process by which the Eisenhower administration came to be concerned about the potential of the gas centrifuge – the same technology currently fueling US-Iranian negotiations. The records reveal that long before Iran’s nuclear enrichment capabilities became the center of international negotiations, the US tried to deny that same technology to any country that sought it, including Brazil in 1954. The documents also show how the administration reached the conclusion that secrecy and export controls were necessary, and sought an understanding on classification policy with the British, Germans, and Dutch.
The Archive also helped sponsor this week’s conference, “International Decision-Making in the Age of Genocide: Srebrenica 1993-1995” held at The Hague. In cooperation with The Hague Institute for Global Justice and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the “oral history” conference marking the 20th anniversary of the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre considered the international community’s role in the tragedy. Archive director Tom Blanton said of the event, “The archival documents allow us to look over the shoulders of the people who struggled with life-and-death decisions during the run-up to Srebrenica. We can get inside the private sessions of the UN Security Council and the heads of decision-makers in The Hague, London, Washington, Zagreb, Pale, and Sarajevo, in a way that was impossible just a few years ago.” An official transcript will be published following the conclusion of the conference.
This week’s #tbt document pick is chosen with the Freedom of Information Act’s upcoming 49th birthday in mind. Grudgingly signed on July 4, 1966, by LBJ, documents from the LBJ Library show that the President refused even to hold a formal ceremony for the FOIA, personally removed strong openness language from the press statement, and only agreed to approve the bill after the Justice Department –still in charge of “monitoring FOIA compliance”– suggested a signing statement that undercut the thrust of the law. Read the documents on LBJ’s reluctant signature here.