NYPD, told it can’t use “Glomar” denial, now claims it has no records on Millions March cell phone surveillance
The January decision in the case of Millions March NYC v. NYPD represented a decisive victory for transparency around cell site simulators and could be an example to agencies across the country, but transparency and privacy advocates remain concerned about StingRays.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has responded to dozens of FOIA requests regarding darknet markets (and one request for files on Cryptocomb) by refusing to confirm or deny the existence of records mentioning them. To support this denial, the Bureau cited FOIA exemption b(7)a, which covers “ongoing proceedings.” In doing so, the Bureau seemed to violate its own GLOMAR response by citing the existence of proceedings it refuses to acknowledge exist.
Secretive federal agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are notorious for refusing to confirm or deny the existence of their records. The issue becomes trickier when local law enforcement agencies, tasked with serving their communities, reply to public records requests in similar fashion. The New York Police Department has used the infamous “Glomar response” in the past to keep records secret, but this week a New York court ruled that the NYPD can’t use it this time.
Last month, a federal court ruled that the Central Intelligence Agency can selectively disclose classified information while shielding its release from FOIA in order to protect “intelligence sources and methods.” That ruling ignores the Agency’s history of arbitrarily applying that label to everything from beer brands to cafeteria names and using it to hide behavior that was embarrassing, illegal, or both.
Back in 2010, in response to the publication of the Iraq War Logs leaked by Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Intelligence Community released their official response to WikiLeaks. That report led to official guidance from the Obama administration on how to clamp down on “insider threats,” which in turn sparked a massive discussion on federal employee’s access to classified information, as documents released to Alexa O’Brien reveal.