FBI responds to ACLU FOIA request...with 111 blank pages

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI seeking details of its surveillance policy -- who it spies upon, and how, and under what circumstances. The FBI sent back two 50+ page memos in reply, each of them totally blacked out except for some information on the title page.

In a 12-minute video posted online, Weissmann spoke about two memos: one focused on the use of GPS tracking on forms of transportation beyond cars, the other regarding how Jones applies to tracking methods outside of GPS (presumably like cellphone ping data).

“Is it going to apply to boats, is it going to apply to airplanes?” Weissmann asks in the video. “Is it going to apply at the border? What’s it mean for the consent that’s given by an owner? What does it mean if consent is given by a possessor? And this is all about GPS, by the way, without getting into other types of techniques.”

And those questions remain wholly unanswered.

“The Justice Department’s unfortunate decision leaves Americans with no clear understanding of when we will be subjected to tracking—possibly for months at a time—or whether the government will first get a warrant,” Catherine Crump, an ACLU staff attorney, wrote on Wednesday.

FBI to ACLU: Nope, we won't tell you how, when, or why we track you [Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica]


  1. always found releasing documents redacted like this is really a two fingers in your face “fuck you”. I honestly don’t get why anyone at all finds this acceptable. I’d rather be told “we can’t tell you” than get 50 blacked out pages.

    1. I think they are required to by law. Not that this helps in any way. Maybe they should ask for a less sensitive summary of the document? They’d get less information, but more words.

    2. My guess is that the FBI’s lawyers told them they couldn’t just say “F U” under FOIA. But they could get away with telling them “F U” via blacking out most of the pages.

  2. ██████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████

  3. I guess I would prefer a redacted document like this to a straight up bald-faced lying denial.  Like the one the administration recently did just this week: yeah right – they’re not building a Death Star.

  4. Come on, you just have to read between the lines.

    But seriously, I remember a few years ago some group was issued a redacted document like that.  To save paper, it was sent as a PDF.  Someone opened it in an editor and was able to remove the big black rectangles, revealing the original text.  I suppose they’re too clever to make that mistake again…

    1. Did anyone check to see if there was any sort of difference between the marked out space and letters or was it just ‘we’re gonna use up /SO/ many black ink cartridges to print big black blobs’?

  5. I do not even get why it is blacked out, at the top it clearly says unclassified/law enforcement sensitive, which means it is not secret and they can send it out any local yahoo ‘sheriff’ they want who really has no obligation to keep it private, although it is requested they do so.

  6. It’s all fun & games until you become one of the disappeared. America has deviated greatly from its promise of liberty in the last 12 years.

    1. The disappeared?

      Name me one person who you have reasonable evidence as having been captured by the FBI/CIA in the US, secretly and without warrant.  Or alternatively, one large scale raid where most or all witnesses were killed to prevent leaks.  It’s REALLY hard, if you haven’t noticed over the last decade and a half of twitter and facebook, to prevent these sorts of things from becoming public.

  7. This article has multiple spelling errors. It’s not FBI. The correct spelling for secret surveillance of citizens is KGB.

    1. No, the KGB was shut down, they reopened as the FSB. And it is more properly the КГБ and ФСБ. Of course the faces and methods are the same, only the names were changed.

    1. Likely they are taking all the cellphone data from everyone and storing it, to be used later when they create an excuse.

  8. They say it’s to keep track of terrorists, when it’s our government that terrorizes us the most, in violation of our constitutionally protected liberties. Ben Laden, and Al Qaeda win, when our government use them as an excuse to destroy all the freedoms our country was built on.

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