This is a very interesting article by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). It seems the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) arbitrarily attempts to cover up their illegal activities when complying with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
The EFF obtained two copies of two documents from the FBI via the FOIA. What’s interesting in both cases is either copy of the same document had parts redacted but the parts that were redacted between copies were different:
The report discusses the FBI’s improper collection of bank and credit card records. In Version 1, all important information about the violation (including that it relates to financial records) was withheld. Version 2 reveals most of the details and shows the extent of the FBI’s violation. In this matter, the FBI, as part of an ongoing investigation into international terrorism, sought hotel and financial records on a subject. Although the agent responsible had no legal authority to obtain the financial records, he or she purposefully styled a request to a financial institution as a National Security Letter (NSL) to hide this fact, essentially lying to obtain the bank and credit card information.
What’s even more interesting is the fact this isn’t the first time such behavior has been noticed:
This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve seen evidence that an arm of the Justice Department has withheld more than it is entitled to under FOIA. We found this in the FBI’s response of one of our earlier FOIA requests and reported on it here. More recently, the New York Times reported on the Justice Department’s attempts to keep from the public eye evidence of its embarrassing role in the US government’s “collaboration with [Nazi] persecutors.”
Even with claims of a more transparent government (remember that Obama promise?) it seems the amount of transparency differs day to day. This behavior, like so much of the behavior of our government, is disgusting to say the last. Thankfully it appears the EFF is going to be bringing this to court:
Federal agencies should not be able to hide their missteps behind white blocks. We plan to bring this to the court’s attention in our lawsuit challenging the FBI and other agencies’ improper withholding of reports submitted to the Intelligence Oversight Board.
Of course I question how much will be accomplished by asking the government to punish itself for its own misgivings.