Speaking of Files (1)

When I ordered my copy of The File [stderr] I decided to do a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for my FBI and CIA files. [stderr]

The FOIA was passed in 1966 [wikipedia] as an attempt to stop leaking. The idea was that over-classification of government activities was resulting in a massive overhang of secrecy that made it more likely that whistle-blowers would feel justified in leaking. Originally, FOIA was pretty broad – the idea being that anything that wasn’t actually top secret, probably shouldn’t be secret at all. Since its passage FOIA’s reach has been reduced in many subtle ways. The most recent regime has decided that FOIA requests can’t be denied outright but that agencies should favor denying requests rather that acceeding to them.

“Denied outright” is not the right way to put it, but I’m not sure what is. Perhaps “passive/aggressive bureaucratic slow-walk until the requester dies of frustration” is better, but it’s too long.

This was the CIA’s first response to my FOIA request: please send us more information, including the information you already sent. Delay-loop: one month.

“Although you have provided most of the necessary information, we must receive either a statement under penalty of perjury or a notarized statement swearing to or affirming your identity before we can begin processing your request. We also need a statement of your current citizenship status.”

I re-printed my earlier letter, added another letter attesting to my citizenship status (as if Washington is now suddenly deeply and passionately concerned about perjury?) and sent it in a big manilla envelope, certified, with return receipt requested.

I write my first CIA joke:

Q) Why does the CIA put a big piece of wet-glued fiber tape across the back of the envelopes they send you?
A) To prove that they do not spy on themselves.

------ divider ------

(In case anyone was thinking: “look, it’s Marcus’ address!” – pretty much everything about me is public knowledge. One of my ways of trying to deal with the problem of secrecy is to not give a shit. So far that approach has worked well for 10+ years.)


  1. chigau (違う) says

    Does the wet-glued fiber tape have a lead or tinfoil component?
    re: Marcus’s address
    mailing address or an actual GPS location that my drones can use?
    not that I have drones

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    Methinks they should already be aware of your citizenship status. Probably there is a section on that subject in your file.

  3. says

    My GPS coordinates are on my old website.
    N41 03.212 W78 13.663 altitude 1461 feet

    I think I’ve already posted some drone footage from here. It’s a drone-friendly place. Please leave your Hellfire(tm) Attitude Readjusters at the door!

  4. says

    Reginald Selkirk@#3:
    Methinks they should already be aware of your citizenship status. Probably there is a section on that subject in your file.

    Yup, and they got my date of birth and SSN# the last time I was there.
    Basically, “we can neither confirm nor deny that you’ve ever visited us. Uh, who are you again?”