US court upholds NSA’s refusal to admit or deny wiretap data

Glomar Challenger

The Glomar

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A US federal appeals court has concluded that the National Security Agency can refuse to admit or deny it possesses information about the US government spying on lawyers representing Guantánamo prison detainees. The decision by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York relates to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request under a civil liberties lawsuit challenging post-9/11 warrantless surveillance operations by US agencies. The latter typically respond to most FOIA requests by confirming or denying possession of information relating to particular requests, and then by proceeding to either deny release, or release selected segments of the requested data. It is rare for an agency to refuse even to acknowledge the existence of information sought through FOIA. In such cases, the government pleads an obscure legal precedent known as the Glomar response,  named after a controversial 1974 episode in which the CIA tried to recover a Soviet submarine that had sunk in 1968 about 750 miles northwest of Hawaii. It has since emerged that the CIA recovery team aboard a contracted ship called the Glomar Challenger nearly caused a nuclear explosion when the submarine split while being raised and its body hit the ocean floor. When The Los Angeles Times tried to unearth information about the incident, the CIA successfully managed to establish its legal right to refuse to admit or deny it possessed information on the operation.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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