It is notoriously difficult to get emails out of the CIA. Unless you’re providing “to,” “from,” “subject,” and “timestamp” fields - everything short of the email, really - then the agency can and will reject the request as “unduly burdensome.”
Case in point - back in late 2010, MuckRock user Jason Smathers requested fives days of emails from a specific CIA officer, Susan Viscuso. That request was then rejected “for lack of specificity” by the agency’s Information and Privacy Coordinator … Susan Viscuso.
This kicked off a nearly four year process of appeals, rejections of those appeals, counter-appeals, a government shutdown, and finally mediation, before the agency finally admitted that providing less than a week’s worth of emails was not beyond their technical capacity.
Finally, in September 2014, after taking enough time to complete an undergraduate degree, the CIA released the emails. And while there are some interesting FOIA stats for the wonks and some amusingly panicked attempts to get processing for documents related to Donald Rumsfield’s book expedited …
there’s really not a whole heck of a lot going on here. A reminder who to contact if the thermostat is acting up, a way too long email chain about when the best time to meet up would be, the deleted-without-read agency newsletter - standard office stuff, certainly nothing worth fighting four years to keep from the prying eyes of the public.
But hold on a second, let’s take another look at that newsletter -
First off, the name and issue number are both redacted, which is both fitting and adorable. Now as to its contents …
Okay, so an interesting mix of subject matter here - serious discussion about the impact of Wikileaks, item about the World Factbook being updated more frequently, a call for cupcake recipes, the ethics of holiday gifting …
Wait, did we read that right? Computer, enhance!
Could it be? Is the CIA hiding classified cupcake recipes? Was this whole FOIA runaround part of a plot to keep us from gaining access to pastries deemed too tasty for our delicate sensibilities and/or palate?
Well, too bad CIA. We’re coming for the top-secret treats. And you will be held accountable to the American public.
Read the full newsletter embedded below, or on the request page.
Image via Pexels