DoD investigation of employees' Ashley Madison use

Andrew Couts filed this request with the Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America.
Tracking # 15-F-1683
Status
Rejected

Communications

From: Patrick Howell O'Neill

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

All records -- including but not limited to email conversations, reports, and memos -- related to the Department of Defense's investigation of its employees' use of the website Ashley Madison.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that fees cannot be waived, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Eric Geller

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Geller,

Attached is the interim response to your FOIA request 15-F-1683.

Sincerely,

Charles Marye
For Adrienne Santos, on behalf of
Stephanie L. Carr
Chief, Office of Freedom of Information
OSD/JS FOIA Requester Service Center

(571) 372-0407
NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Geller,

We continue to process your request. It is our policy that each request receives prompt attention, and every effort is made to treat all requesters equally. As previously noted, and unfortunately, our backlog of open requests at the time your request was received was over 1,507. Once I receive a response, all releasable records, if any, cannot be provided to you until all processing is completed. As soon as that occurs, I will send you a formal response letter to your request. Please note all documents are reviewed before we respond. Further note the unusual circumstances concerning your cases are: (a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office; (b) the potential volume of records responsive to your request; and (c) the need for consultation with one or more other agencies or DoD components having a substantial interest in either the determination or the subject matter of the records. These 3 factors do have an impact on the processing of your case. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

Sincerely,

Charles Marye
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information
(571) 372-0407

NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Geller,

We continue to process your request. It is our policy that each request receives prompt attention, and every effort is made to treat all requesters equally. As previously noted, and unfortunately, our backlog of open requests at the time your request was received was over 1,507. Once I receive a response, all releasable records, if any, cannot be provided to you until all processing is completed. As soon as that occurs, I will send you a formal response letter to your request. Please note all documents are reviewed before we respond. Further note the unusual circumstances concerning your cases are: (a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office; (b) the potential volume of records responsive to your request; and (c) the need for consultation with one or more other agencies or DoD components having a substantial interest in either the determination or the subject matter of the records. These 3 factors do have an impact on the processing of your case. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

Sincerely,

Charles Marye
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information
(571) 372-0407

NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Geller,

We continue to process your request. It is our policy that each request receives prompt attention, and every effort is made to treat all requesters equally. As previously noted, and unfortunately, our backlog of open requests at the time your request was received was over 1,507. Once I receive a response, all releasable records, if any, cannot be provided to you until all processing is completed. As soon as that occurs, I will send you a formal response letter to your request. Please note all documents are reviewed before we respond. Further note the unusual circumstances concerning your cases are: (a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office; (b) the potential volume of records responsive to your request; and (c) the need for consultation with one or more other agencies or DoD components having a substantial interest in either the determination or the subject matter of the records. These 3 factors do have an impact on the processing of your case. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

Sincerely,

Charles Marye
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information
(571) 372-0407

NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Geller,

We continue to process your request. It is our policy that each request receives prompt attention, and every effort is made to treat all requesters equally. As previously noted, and unfortunately, our backlog of open requests at the time your request was received was over 1,507. Once I receive a response, all releasable records, if any, cannot be provided to you until all processing is completed. As soon as that occurs, I will send you a formal response letter to your request. Please note all documents are reviewed before we respond. Further note the unusual circumstances concerning your cases are: (a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office; (b) the potential volume of records responsive to your request; and (c) the need for consultation with one or more other agencies or DoD components having a substantial interest in either the determination or the subject matter of the records. These 3 factors do have an impact on the processing of your case. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

V/R

Charles Marye
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information
(571) 372-0407

NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Geller,

We continue to process your request. It is our policy that each request receives prompt attention, and every effort is made to treat all requesters equally. As previously noted, and unfortunately, our backlog of open requests at the time your request was received was over 1,507. Once I receive a response, all releasable records, if any, cannot be provided to you until all processing is completed. As soon as that occurs, I will send you a formal response letter to your request. Please note all documents are reviewed before we respond. Further note the unusual circumstances concerning your cases are: (a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office; (b) the potential volume of records responsive to your request; and (c) the need for consultation with one or more other agencies or DoD components having a substantial interest in either the determination or the subject matter of the records. These 3 factors do have an impact on the processing of your case. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

V/R

Charles Marye
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information
(571) 372-0407

NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Geller,

We continue to process your request. It is our policy that each request receives prompt attention, and every effort is made to treat all requesters equally. As previously noted, and unfortunately, our backlog of open requests at the time your request was received was over 1,507. Once I receive a response, all releasable records, if any, cannot be provided to you until all processing is completed. As soon as that occurs, I will send you a formal response letter to your request. Please note all documents are reviewed before we respond. Further note the unusual circumstances concerning your cases are: (a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office; (b) the potential volume of records responsive to your request; and (c) the need for consultation with one or more other agencies or DoD components having a substantial interest in either the determination or the subject matter of the records. These 3 factors do have an impact on the p
rocessing of your case. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

V/R

Charles Marye
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information
(571) 372-0407

NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Geller,

We continue to process your request. It is our policy that each request receives prompt attention, and every effort is made to treat all requesters equally. As previously noted, and unfortunately, our backlog of open requests at the time your request was received was over 1,507. Once I receive a response, all releasable records, if any, cannot be provided to you until all processing is completed. As soon as that occurs, I will send you a formal response letter to your request. Please note all documents are reviewed before we respond. Further note the unusual circumstances concerning your cases are: (a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office; (b) the potential volume of records responsive to your request; and (c) the need for consultation with one or more other agencies or DoD components having a substantial interest in either the determination or the subject matter of the records. These 3 factors do have an impact on the p
rocessing of your case. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

V/R

Charles Marye
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information
(571) 372-0407

NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Geller,

We continue to process your request. It is our policy that each request receives prompt attention, and every effort is made to treat all requesters equally. As previously noted, and unfortunately, our backlog of open requests at the time your request was received was over 1,507. Once I receive a response, all releasable records, if any, cannot be provided to you until all processing is completed. As soon as that occurs, I will send you a formal response letter to your request. Please note all documents are reviewed before we respond. Further note the unusual circumstances concerning your cases are: (a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office; (b) the potential volume of records responsive to your request; and (c) the need for consultation with one or more other agencies or DoD components having a substantial interest in either the determination or the subject matter of the records. These 3 factors do have an impact on the p
rocessing of your case. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

V/R

Charles Marye
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information
(571) 372-0407

NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Geller,

We continue to process your request. It is our policy that each request receives prompt attention, and every effort is made to treat all requesters equally. As previously noted, and unfortunately, our backlog of open requests at the time your request was received was over 1,507. Once I receive a response, all releasable records, if any, cannot be provided to you until all processing is completed. As soon as that occurs, I will send you a formal response letter to your request. Please note all documents are reviewed before we respond. Further note the unusual circumstances concerning your cases are: (a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office; (b) the potential volume of records responsive to your request; and (c) the need for consultation with one or more other agencies or DoD components having a substantial interest in either the determination or the subject matter of the records. These 3 factors do have an impact on the p
rocessing of your case. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

V/R

Charles Marye
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information
(571) 372-0407

NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Marye, Charles C CIV WHS ESD (US)

Mr. Geller,

We continue to process your request. It is our policy that each request receives prompt attention, and every effort is made to treat all requesters equally. As previously noted, and unfortunately, our backlog of open requests at the time your request was received was over 1,507. Once I receive a response, all releasable records, if any, cannot be provided to you until all processing is completed. As soon as that occurs, I will send you a formal response letter to your request. Please note all documents are reviewed before we respond. Further note the unusual circumstances concerning your cases are: (a) the need to search for and collect records from a facility geographically separated from this Office; (b) the potential volume of records responsive to your request; and (c) the need for consultation with one or more other agencies or DoD components having a substantial interest in either the determination or the subject matter of the records. These 3 factors do have an impact on the p
rocessing of your case. I appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

V/R

Charles Marye
OSD/JS Office of Freedom of Information
(571) 372-0407

NIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.mil
SIPR: charles.c.marye.civ@mail.smil.mil

From: Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense

A copy of documents responsive to the request.

From: Dell Cameron

This letter constitutes and appeal under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C.§ 552, and is submitted on behalf of the Daily Dot, an online news organization, to the Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense ("OSD").

The Daily Dot is an organization “primarily engaged in disseminating information.” See: Am. Civil Liberties Union v. Department of Justice, 321 F. Supp. 2d 24, 29 n.5 (D.D.C. 2004) (finding that The Daily Dot is a “representative of the news media” because it “gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw material into distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience.”)

On August 31, 2015, the Daily Dot sent a letter to the Office of the Secretary of Defense requesting records under the Freedom of Information Act pertaining to "the Department of Defense's investigation of its employees' use of the website Ashley Madison." This request, authored on behalf of the Daily Dot by then-Staff Reporter Eric Geller, was assigned tracking number 15-F-1683. A two-page letter authored by Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine to then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is the only responsive records retrieved by OSD's Office of Freedom of Information.

Our office has reason to believe these two pages are not the only documents held by OSD related to Ashley Madison. We would also argue that the use of the term "investigation" in our original request was not meant to imply that OSD was actually engaged in a formal investigation; since there was apparently no formal investigation, the fact that OSD released any records whatsoever indicates the office also agrees that our use of the term "investigation" was used broadly to mean any records related to OSD's preliminary decision making process with regards to the Ashley Madison hack of 2015, which reportedly included several thousand online credentials belonging to DOD employees.

In Aug. 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the armed services “are looking into” military email addresses that showed up in the leaked customer files of adultery website Ashley Madison. "Service officials told The Daily Beast that the mere presence of an email address isn’t enough to investigate someone for adultery—which the military considers a crime—and there are no plans to launch a military-wide manhunt for cheating spouses," Shane Harris wrote at The Daily Beast. (See: Shane Harris. (2015, Aug. 25) The Daily Beast. Pentagon Gives Free Pass to Ashley Madison Cheaters. Retrieved from: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/08/25/pentagon-gives-free-pass-to-ashley-madison-cheaters.html)

As OSD did not cite any FOIA exemptions in its response to The Daily Dot's request, it is apparent that OSD means to convey that Rep. Bridenstine's letter is the only record held by OSD whatsoever related to the Ashley Madison hack as it pertains to U.S. service members. Given that Mr. Carter chose to publicly addressed this issue, this seems highly unlikely. In my experience as a reporter, government officials of Mr. Carter's stature do not typically make nonchalant comments about potential investigations or significant cybersecurity events without careful consideration, and without consulting with subordinate staff members. If indeed, as Mr. Carter said, his office was "looking into" investigating the information released by the hack, as it pertains to U.S. service members who were Ashley Madison subscribers, then OSD should have records that reflect its decision making process.

What's more, this matter pertained to a matter of significant interest at the time. News reports concerning the Ashley Madison hack numbered in the hundreds, if not thousands. Therefore, it seems highly unlikely that OSD did not receive at the very least numerous press inquiries concerning the contents of the Ashley Madison database made public. Any press inquiries into OSD's potential investigation would certainly be covered by our request, which specifically asked for "email conversations, reports, and memos." Again, OSD release Mr. Bridenstine's letter to use, despite the fact that there was no formal investigation; it seems only reasonable then, that OSD release all records in its possession concerning the Ashley Madison hack, as it pertains to U.S. service members, regardless of whether or not there was indeed any formal probe into the matter.

I appreciate your time and attention to this matter.

If you have any urgent questions, please feel free to contact me at any time at (469) 387-1810.

Thank you.

From: Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense

The request has been rejected by the agency.

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