Be Careful with Those Freedom of Information Act Requests

Be careful when you file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, it might put you in the sights of the National Security Agency (NSA):

Declassified documents in the Central Intelligence Agency’s archives show that while the CIA was looking to include the Freedom Of Information Act in its war on leaks, the National Security Agency was seriously considering using the Espionage Act to target target Puzzle Palace author James Bamford for using FOIA.

While Bamford has briefly discussed this on a handful of occasions, the declassified memos and briefings from NSA confirm that this was more than just an intimidation tactic or a passing thought – the NSA had truly wanted to jail a journalist for his use of public records. When the Agency determined that this was unlikely to happen, they moved on to exploring other legal avenues which could be used to punish Bamford for his FOIA work.

The passage of FOIA made it appear as though the federal government wanted to make itself accountable to the people. However, as with all government promises, what appeared to be the case and what actually ended up being the case were two different things. While FOIA appeared to give lowly plebs a mechanism to request information from the federal government, the most common results of filing a FOIA request seemed to be either a denial of the request or a heavily redacted version of the request. In the case of Bamford the result was first an attempt to imprison him and then an attempt to intimidate him.

We’re fortunate that the federal government still feels the need to appear at least somewhat legitimate. If it didn’t, I guarantee Bamford would have ended up charged under the Espionage Act. But anybody who is paying attention to the news realizes that the federal government is less and less concerned about appearing legitimate. I won’t be surprised if some poor soul who files a FOIA request ends up being charged and found guilty under the Espionage Act.