Government Sends Rapid “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” Response To PPSA's Query About Surveillance of Two Congressional Committees
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Four business days after receiving a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence answered the civil liberties organization with a “Glomar response.”
PPSA had asked Washington’s intelligence community – the FBI, CIA, NSA, ODNI, the Department of Justice and the Department of State – about possible electronic surveillance of Members of Congress serving on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
The Glomar response, in the words of the ODNI’s letter to PPSA, means that the agency “can neither confirm nor deny the existence or non-existence of records responsive to of [sic] your request. The fact of the existence or non-existence of the requested records is itself currently and properly classified, and could reveal intelligence sources and methods information that is protected from disclosure …”
“We had asked for an expedited response, but a response in four business days from this bureaucracy is in my experience unprecedented,” said Gene Schaerr, PPSA general counsel. “To receive a Glomar response on the possible surveillance of House and Senate committee members is a troubling answer that should prompt deeper inquiries by Members of Congress.”
PPSA was inspired to file these requests after CATO Institute fellow Patrick Eddington filed FOIA requests to learn if the FBI collected national security or intelligence records on 23 civil liberties organizations. These organizations were alarmed when Eddington reported he received a Glomar response.
“PPSA and our supporters are rightly concerned about the potential for abuse of federal surveillance,” said Schaerr. “We give the government these surveillance authorities for the sole purpose of keeping us safe from terrorists and foreign spies. Given recent high-profile missteps by the FBI, civil liberties supporters and people in both parties have reason to worry about the potential for the abuse of this enormous grant of power.”
PPSA intends appeal the denial to the ODNI. If denied by ODNI, PPSA will file a lawsuit before the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
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