From: Larry W. Bryant <overtci.nul> Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004 15:32:11 -0500 Fwd Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2004 07:16:42 -0500 Subject: DIA Dances Around The FOIA Maypole DIA Dances 'round the FOIA Maypole, by Larry W. Bryant "A democracy begins to fail when its citizens start losing trust in their governmental leaders." -- Larry W. Bryant (March 25, 2004) You might argue that playing FOIAgames with officialdom becomes an unproductive exercise from the very start -- for the FOIA requester, that is. But sometimes, the exercise yields some insight (not to mention entertainment) that you just can't get , these days, from, say, routine digestion of our corporately filtered news media. Case in point: On Dec. 22, 2003, in an act of desperately seeking accountability from the U. S. Defense Intelligence Agency (which manages defense attache personnel assigned to various U. S. embassies overseas), I FOIA'd that agency's FOIA manager with the request that he send me a copy of the entire DIA case file on my FOIA request of June 22, 2003 (and subsequent appeal), re the whistleblower-exposed incident of some "hostile aerial craft's" interference with some U. S. military satellites during the summer of 1975 (as teletyped to, inter alia, the U. S. embassy in Canberra, Australia. Here's the text of the DIA response, dated March 16, 2004: "U-2, 166/DAN-1A(FOIA) "Dear Mr. Bryant: "This responds to your request under the Freedom of Information Act dated 22 December 2003. Therein you requested records concerning your request for records concerning a 1975 unidentified flying object incident in Australia. A search of DIA's systems of records located four documents responsive to the subject of your request. "Upon review, it has been determined that some portions of one document are not releasable. The portions withheld are exempt from release pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552 (b)(1), (b)(2), and (b)(3), Freedom of Information Act. Subsection (b)(1) applies to information properly classified under the criteria provided by Executive Order 12958, as amended. Subsection (b)(2) applies to information which pertains solely to the internal rules and practices of the agency. Subsection (b)(3) applies to information specifically exempted by a statute establishing particular criteria for withholding. The applicable statute is 10 U.S.C. Section 424. All reasonably segregable portions of the document are attached hereto. "The remaining three documents are enclosed for your use without redaction. "You are advised that a requester may appeal, within 60 days, an initial decision to withhold a record or part thereof. Should you wish to exercise this right, you may do so by referring to case #0498-03 and addressing your appeal to: Defense Intelligence Agency; ATTN: DAN-1A (FOIA); Washington, D.C. 20340-5100. "Sincerely, "ROBERT P. RICHARDSON, Chief, Freedom of Information Act Staff" One of the sanitized documents consists of a blank form titled Defense Intelligence Agency Staff Summary Sheet (Subject: Freedom of Information Act Appeal of Larry Bryant, case number 0498-03). In the section labeled "BACKGROUND," the form has three entries: "1. PURPOSE: To respond to a Freedom of Information Act appeal (enclosure). "2. BACKGROUND: The individual requested information on 1975 telexes concerning interference by unidentified flying objects (UFO) on military satellites (enclosure 2). Due to the searches conducted for earlier UFO requests, the FOIA Office advised the request[er] that there were no responsive records (enclosure 3). On appeal, the records systems were searched without locating responsive records (enclosure 4). "3. DISCUSSION: A new search by the classified library indicates that this Agency could locate no information pertaining to the request (enclosure 4). "4. RECOMMENDATION: That DA approve and sign the appeal response letter." The revelation expressed in item 2 explains why it took only a few days for the DIA FOIA wizards to send me a form-letter dismissal of my original request of June 22, 2003. Of course, UFO-oriented FOIA warriors regularly encounter this obfuscatory tactic, which goes like this: "When we receive a request for UFO-related records, we simply go through the motions of (1) referring the requester to the old USAF Project Blue Book files, now maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); and/or (2) giving him some previously released DIA documents so as to appease him -- and thus easily wash our hands of the matter." What's more, the agency's confining its records-search to a "library" (rather than expanding it to all relevant DIA operational and functional files) assured swift, certain death for the request's processing. This (stonewalling) practice of course sets up a sort of "Catch-22" for the requester: "If we search the wrong files, and/or couch the data-base search under date ranges exclusive of 1975, we can report to him: 'No responsive hits,' and he'll have no chance of proving us wrong." (Note: here are the date ranges cited in the search printouts: 01/01/87 to 12/31/94; 01/01/95 to 12/31/99; 01/01/00 to 08/25/03; and 01/01/00 to 09/08/03.) Perhaps the most revelatory item in the case file consists of a hand-written document-transmittal slip from DIA headquarters, dated Nov. 17, 2003, addressed to "CS -- Bill"; it states: "I spoke to Paul Richardson about this appeal because I wanted to be sure he was covered. It is clear the individual must've been a DIA employee because he knows too much about our procedures. "(1) There are no DAO [defense attache office] files to query. (2) We do not have many permanent records for the DAO's. It is something we hope to change with this next iteration of the records management manual. There certainly wouldn't be copies at NARA of any internal DAO correspondence (and we didn't have e- mail in 1975) like minutes from an embassy meeting commenting on what a security guard said on the existence of telexes. They are probably not even considered to be temporary files. "V/R [Very Respectfully], "Konhea [DeLauth]" As I await any further whistleblower input into this latest FOIA merry-go-round, I leave you with a renewed question: If we citizens no longer can trust such agencies as the DIA, CIA, NSA, and FBI to faithfully discharge their obligation to comply with both the spirit and the letter of open-access law, have we already lost the battle to preserve, protect, and expand our democratic ideals?
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