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Crowdfunding $300 to make the NSA disclose its IT meltdowns

Michael from Muckrock sez, "The Wall Street Journal reported today that the National Security Agency's massive data storage center in Bluffdale, Utah has melted down at least 10 times in the past 13 months. While many details regarding the center are classified, MuckRock has been doggedly pursuing documents that pry open its operational details, including its electrical bill."

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NSA freedom of information requests up 1000% post-Snowden

Michael Morisy from Muckrock sez, "A veritable FOIA frenzy ensued in 2013 following a series of leaks about NSA surveillance programs, recently released documents show.

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NSA contracted with notorious French spy-tech company VUPEN

Michael from Muckrock sez, ""Documents requested by MuckRock from the National Security Agency show it had a contract with the French security researcher VUPEN whose founder and CEO Chaouki Bekrar puckishly touts himself as the 'Darth Vader of Cybersecurity.' While the NSA redacted the price of the subscription, VUPEN is apparently hoping the year-long contract is a sign of things to come: It recently tweeted it was setting up shop in Maryland."

VUPEN are also the war criminals who flog zero-day exploits to repressive governments with terrible human-rights records to help them spy on dissidents.

Naturally, it was a no-bid contract.

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DoD office can't process FOIAs because fax machine broken, no money for new one

MuckRock News reports that Freedom of Information Act requests faxed to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) started coming back as undeliverable a couple weeks ago. The OSD confirms their fax machine is down, possibly for another few months, because there's no money in their tens of billions of dollars a year budget for a new one, and they can't switch to email as a request method. "The office that oversees the most powerful military in history (not to mention the best-funded) is unable to project when its single fax machine will once again be operational." Xeni 31

Doomed to repeat history: Kafkaesque FBI watchlist screwups of the 1940s


Michael from Muckrock sez, "The problems with various government watch lists, particularly the TSA's, are well known, but a new release of documents shows just how problematic large-scale government tracking can be: A recent FOIA request to the FBI for the files on late Irving Adler, activist, turned up plenty of reading material, but it was about the wrong Irving: An examination of documents showed that the files another Irving Adler, an Army veteran, found himself on the wrong end of intense questioning despite universal assertions that he was a 'loyal and patriotic American."

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You can't FOIA the list of who visits White House, US federal appeals court rules

Today, a federal appeals court ruled that the White House visitor list--who comes to talk to the president and his staff--is not public information, and not subject to Freedom of Information Act disclosure. Xeni 8

Irish government updates its Freedom of Information law with exciting new "Computers don't exist" provision

When the Irish government updated its Freedom of Information law, it promised something fit for the computer era. To say it did not deliver is rather an understatement.

The new bill (PDF) says: "the FOI body shall take reasonable steps to search for and extract the records to which the request relates, having due regard to the steps that would be considered reasonable if the records were held in paper format."

Get that? The standard for whether a FOI request is reasonable is whether it would be easy to get if the records were on paper and in a filing cabinet. If the records can be retrieved from a database with one click, but would take a hundred years with a filing cabinet, then the records can remain secret forever, because clicking once is deemed unreasonable.

As Simon McGarr puts it: "The Irish State wishes to uninvent computers.

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First 100 pages of Aaron Swartz's Secret Service files


After a long wrangle, and no thanks to MIT, the Secret Service has begun to honor the court order that requires it to release Aaron Swartz's files. The first 100 pages -- albeit heavily redacted -- were just released. Kevin Poulsen, the Wired reporter who filed the Freedom of Information Act request that liberated the files, has posted some preliminary analysis of them. The Feds were particularly interested in the "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto," a document Aaron helped to write in 2008. The manifesto -- and subsequent statements by Aaron -- make the case that access to scientific and scholarly knowledge is a human right. The full Aaron Swartz files run 14,500 pages, according to the Secret Service's own estimate.

I was interested to note that much of the analysis of Swartz's materials was undertaken by SAIC, the mystery-shrouded, massive private military/government contractor that is often described as the largest privately held company in the world.

Update: Jake Appelbaum corrects me: "I've been reading what is released of one of the files for Aaron. I think that SAIC in these documents means 'Special Agent In Charge' and isn't actually the motherfuckers at SAIC. Reading this report makes my fucking blood boil, (b)(6), (b)(7)(c)"

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Who is America at war with? Sorry, that's classified

The Pentagon has classified the list of groups that the USA believes itself to be at war with. They say that releasing a list of the groups that it considers to itself to be fighting could be used by those groups to boast about the fact that America takes them seriously, and thus drum up recruits. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the most transparent administration in history.

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ANCHORY: NSA's 1990s catalog of spook assets


Michael Morisy sez, "Back when the National Security Agency still measured data in megabytes rather than by the square mile of servers, the agency took it upon itself to catalogue the output of a newswire service and publications of the wider intelligence community, new documents show.

"The NSA database's called ANCHORY catalogs intelligence analysis and reports from the CIA, State Department and Defense Intelligence Agency, plus Reuters for good measure. The program comes to (dim) light following a FOIA request inspired by Christopher Soghoian observation that scouring LinkedIn profiles might yield some good counter-surveillance clues."

A glimpse into ANCHORY, NSA's intelligence catalog database (Thanks, Michael!)

MIT and Aaron Swartz's Secret Service files: what has MIT got to hide?

Ed Felten comments on the news that MIT has moved to delay the release of the Secret Service files on Aaron Swartz:

It seems unlikely that MIT will find information redactable under FOIA that hasn’t already been redacted by the Secret Service.

But there are two things that MIT’s filing will more likely achieve. First, it will delay the disclosure of facts about MIT’s role in the Swartz investigation. Second, it will help MIT prepare its public-relations response to whatever is in the documents.

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Astronauts debate provenance of turd floating in Apollo 10


A declassified mission transcript from Apollo 10 (PDF) includes a passage in which the spacemen argue about whose turd is floating weightlessly through the capsule.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

MIT blocking release of Aaron Swartz's Secret Service files

My friend Aaron Swartz's suicide, just over six months ago, brought attention to MIT's role in his prosecution over downloading scholarly articles from their network. JSTOR, the service that hosted the files Aaron was accused of downloading, dropped its case against him, and it was widely reported that the only reason the Justice Department was able to go ahead with its threats of decades of time in prison for Aaron was MIT's insistence on pressing the case against him. MIT's administration was so shaken by the negative publicity following Aaron's death that they commissioned professor Hal Abelson (a good guy, in my experience) to investigate the university's role in his prosecution.

Now, though, MIT has blocked a Freedom of Information Act suit by Wired's Kevin Poulsen aimed at forcing the Secret Service to release their files on Aaron. A court recently ordered the Secret Service to stop screwing around and release Aaron's file, but before that could happen, MIT intervened, arguing that if the world could see the files, they would know the names of the MIT employees who insisted that Aaron deserved to go to jail for what amounted to checking too many books out of the library. MIT argues that its employees would potentially face retaliation (though not, presumably, threats of felony prosecutions, million-dollar fines, and decades in prison) if their names were known.

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Kickstarting a machine to kill secrets

Leszek sez, "The Berkeley-based Center For Investigative Reporting is running a Kickstarter to create the FOIA Machine, an automated online system to allow easy submission and tracking of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests by anyone." Cory 6

Judge orders Secret Service to release Aaron Swartz's files

Wired reporter Kevin Pouslsen has had a major victory in his legal battle against the US Secret Service over Aaron Swartz's files. The Secret Service refused to release the thousands of pages of files they had compiled on Aaron, but yesterday, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered them to "promptly release to Plaintiff all responsive documents that it has gathered thus far and shall continue to produce additional responsive documents that it locates on a rolling basis." The Secret Service has until August 5 to produce a timetable for the documents' release. Cory 3