Nine Days of FOIA Exemptions: b(1)

Nine Days of FOIA Exemptions: b(1)

With classified information, few routes to success except waiting

Written by
Edited by Michael Morisy

With Sunshine Week just around the corner, we wanted to count down the days to our favorite time of year with a closer look at what’s going on behind the black bars: the nine federal FOIA exemptions. Today, we’re kicking things off with the big one: b(1), the national security exemption.

Exemption Name: b(1)

AKA : “The National Security one” “I guess they weren’t kidding about it being Classified.”

Common Reactions: “Woah, what?” / “I don’t know what I expected.”

What it says: “Specifically authorized under criteria by an executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and (B) are in fact properly classified to such Executive Order #12958 (3/25/03).”

What that means: Classified national defense and foreign relations information. Spy and/or military stuff, mostly.

Who uses it? Pop up a lot in Central Intelligence Agency or National Security Agency records (any intelligence agency, really), and often older Federal Bureau of Investigation files.

Silliest example of its use: CIA used it redact headers from its internal collectible card game.

What you can do about it: Depends on how recent the docs are. If it’s anywhere near the vicinity of this decade, you’re probably out of luck. If it’s on the older side, you might have a case for a Mandatory Declassification Review.

Any other resources? The consistently excellent folks over at National Security Archive have a great guide on how and when to file an MDR - there’s even a flowchart! Speaking of the NSA(rchive), Friend of MuckRock Nate Jones has an entire book on his decade plus efforts to get records declassified that comes highly recommended. Also, check out our interview with Jason Leopold, which has some solid pointers on MDRs.

Happy appeals! Any other b(1) tips we left out? Let us know via email, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Image via Obama White House Archives