Congress required the Department of Justice to produce a semi-annual report on how the National Security Administration is using its sweeping surveillance powers under the 2008 FISA Amendments Act.

Surveillance expert Julian Sanchez at the Cato Institute submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, asking for copies of these reports — expecting that information identifying specific cases would  redacted, as it was in the past, when the ACLU successfully sued to obtain publication of older issues of the report.

This being the “Most Transparent Administration Ever,” and Obama having defined himself as the cure to Bush’s secrecy, Sanchez surely got what he requested, no?


DOJ, after two months, responded to Sanchez: “we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records in these files responsive to your request….”

Sanchez picks apart this response:

This is, in a word, ridiculous. The “existence” of the reports I asked for is required by federal law. To the extent they contain passing references to any specific persons or organizations under investigation, these can easily be redacted, and have been redacted for previous public releases of the same documents. No reasonable person could believe that this reply is applicable to my request. If it had been sent immediately, you could at least put it down to sloppiness or inattention, but remember, it took them two months to send out a denial based on the preposterous claim that it is classified information whether a report mandated by federal statute even exists.

This episode reflects how the Obama administration has tacked towards Cheneyism on national security, as I wrote in my column today.

It is also the latest in a long string of Obama offenses to the cause of transparency.