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FOIA Request Helps Show What Steps NGA Taking to Reduce Overclassification: FRINFORMSUM 9/14/2017

September 14, 2017

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Fundamental Classification Guidance Review – Final Progress Report

FOIA Request Helps Show What Steps NGA Taking to Reduce Overclassification

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is going beyond the Executive Order on classification to improve the quality of its classification decisions and reduce overclassification. The Federation of American Scientists’ Steve Aftergood analyzes the changes in the agency’s new classification guide, including three types of “enhancement statements” that are likely “to promote a more thoughtful and limited approach to classifying national security information,” which were described in an agency report to the Information Security Oversight Office and obtained via FOIA. “NGA said that its use of enhancement statements to improve classification guides will soon be adopted throughout the Department of Defense, including all DoD intelligence agencies and military services, in a forthcoming revision of DoD manual 5200.45 on classification guidance.”

NSA Sets Up Surveillance Shop in Ethiopia, The Intercept Releases Trove of SIDtoday Articles  

The Intercept recently published a pair of interesting articles drawing on information from National Security Agency internal documents – nearly 300 SIDtoday articles – leaked by Edward Snowden.

The first draws on the leaked documents – as well as a document the National Security Archive obtained through the FOIA and published in 2009 – to chart how the agency built a surveillance network for Ethiopia, a key counterterrorism partner in East Africa that has been criticized for egregious human rights abuses and political violence. The NSA established its Deployed Signals Intelligence Operations Center, known as Lion’s Pride, in 2002 – but the roots go back to 1953, when the US “signed a 25-year agreement for a base at Kagnew Station in Asmara, Ethiopia, according to a declassified NSA report obtained by the nonprofit National Security Archive. Navy and Army communications facilities based there were joined by an NSA outpost just over a decade later.”

The second highlights stories from the 294 SIDtoday articles that are both substantive and strange, ranging from spies circumventing an attempt to mask their identities online by logging into their social media or doing a little online shopping, to efforts to spy on a liberated Iraq.

Mar-a-Lago guest Richard DeAgazio’s Facebook page featured a number of pictures of President Trump’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as news broke North Korea had fired a missile in the direction of Japan.

Mar-a-Lago Release Expected Tomorrow

The widely anticipated release of Mar-a-Lago visitor records for President Trump’s first six weeks in office has been delayed until noon tomorrow, Friday, September 15, at the request of the government.

Previously, federal district judge Katherine Polk Failla had ordered release of this first tranche of visitor logs for today, in response to the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the National Security Archive, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Doyle et. al. v. DHS). But government lawyers told the plaintiffs last Friday that another week was needed for final review of the records.

Apparently, the Mar-a-Lago records do not include the level of detail that was routinely released by the Obama White House for over seven years on visitors, such as the staff person who authorized the visit, and location visited. Instead, the Mar-a-Lago records seem to consist of a series of e-mails between Secret Service components, sending names and identity information to be vetted. The release next Friday, September 15, will likely consist of a PDF containing these e-mails.

DC Glomars FOIA Request on Officer Seen Wearing Offensive Shirt

The District of Columbia is Glomaring a FOIA request for information on past complaints made against Officer Vincent Altiere, who was documented wearing a shirt bearing symbols “associated with the Ku Klux Klan and other racist groups,” saying any information – which they will not acknowledge the existence of – would be “a clearly unwanted invasion of personal privacy.” FOX 5 filed the FOIA request with the Metropolitan Police Department, and later appealed up to the mayor’s office; both entities denied the appeal.

Alleged Sessions Resignation Letter Won’t be Released

The Justice Department is Glomaring a FOIA request from the Huffington Post for a copy of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ draft resignation letter allegedly written on May 5. Politico reported the resignation was penned after Trump repeatedly expressed frustration with Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation. The DOJ argued that “Even to acknowledge the existence of an alleged letter of resignation could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

The DOJ also  refused to release the resignation letters of the U.S. attorneys who “left their posts at the request of the Trump administration” in March to the Burlington Free Press in response to a FOIA, saying they were “inherently personal.” Two former U.S. Attorneys – Tom Delahanty of Maine and Mike Cotter of Montana – later shared their resignation letters with the Burlington Free Press, saying there was nothing in the letters that should prevent their public release. Cotter’s March 10, 2017, letter stated: “Today at 12:45 p.m. MST I was informed that you Mr. President, ordered that I resign my position as United States Attorney for the District of Montana effective 5 p.m. MST today. Accordingly, I hereby submit my resignation.”

Kornbluh at the Secrets of State exhibit in Santiago.

Chile: Secrets of State

Forty-four years after the U.S. supported military coup, the Santiago Museum of Memory and Human Rights has inaugurated a special exhibit of declassified CIA, FBI, Defense Department and White House records on the U.S. role in Chile and the Pinochet dictatorship. The unusual exhibit, which officially opened to the public on September 5, is titled Secretos de Estado: La Historia Desclasificada de la Dictadura Chilena—Secrets of State: the Declassified History of the Chilean Dictatorship.

Curated by National Security Archive senior analyst Peter Kornbluh, the exhibit consists of 45 formerly classified documents dated between 1970 when Richard Nixon ordered to the CIA to instigate a coup in Chile, and October 1988 when General Augusto Pinochet sought to orchestrate a second coup after losing a plebiscite to stay in power.

The exhibit, mounted in the museum’s “Galeria de la Memoria,” will run until March, 2018.

Cyber Vault: First Responders Targeted

Cyber criminals, including those supporting violent extremists, appear engaged in an ongoing effort to single out first responders, hoping to impede their ability to react to disasters. Cyber Threats to First Responders are a Persistent Concern, compiled by the New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association in conjunction with the National Counterterrorism Center, DHS, and the FBI, cites recent incidents in DC and 12 states, and provides a list of possible countermeasures.

The document is one of 12 new additions posted in the National Security Archive’s Cyber Vault on Wednesday, September 13.

TBT Pick: “Godfather” of Colombian Army Intelligence Acquitted in Palace of Justice Case

This week’s #TBT pick is a 2011 posting on the Palace of Justice trial of Colombian army general Iván Ramírez Quintero, who “actively” collaborated with paramilitary death squads responsible for dozens of massacres, according to FOIA-released records published by the Archive. Ramírez, however, was exonerated for his role in the torture and disappearance of Irma Franco, one of several people detained by the army during the November 1985 Palace of Justice disaster. Archivist Michael Evans has the whole story and declassified documents here.

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Happy FOIA-ing!

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