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Former Secrets - Documents Released Under FOIA


EPIC frequently uses the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain information from the government about surveillance, cryptography, and privacy. Public disclosure of this information improves government oversight and accountability, and ensures that the public is fully informed about government activities. The following documents are representative of the types of material that EPIC obtains.

Uncovered Documents

  • The 2013 Security Control Assessment Report and Security Control Assessment Test Plan from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that was completed before the roll out of the website. (released September 17, 2020)
  • The table of contents of several U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent Investigation Handbooks. The HSI is the investigative component of the U.S Department of Homeland Security. (released September 26, 2019)
  • E-mail correspondences released by the U.S. Department of Justice about former Attorney General Loretta Lynch's meeting on January 8, 2016 with top executives from tech firms to discuss countering terrorism online. The documents include discussion of planning a meeting agenda and drafting convening issue papers. According to the White House, the focus of the meeting was to enlist major Silicon Valley technology companies to assist in the fight against terrorism and to help counter violent extremism online. (released June 10, 2019)
  • An archived webpage released by the U.S. Secret Service about Z Backscatter technology, a proprietary x-ray technology used to inspect objects. EPIC originally filed a request in 2014 seeking the development and deployment of Z Backscatter Van technology by law enforcement agencies since 2011. (released April 18, 2019)
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation's contracts and procurement documents between the FBI and Dataminr (part 1, part 2, part 3). In 2016, the FBI announced a contract with Dataminr to acquire 200+ licenses for Dataminr's Advanced Alerting Tool, which "will permit the FBI to search the complete Twitter firehose, in near real-time, using customizable filters." (released October 3, 2018)
  • Department of Defense Inspector General Report titled "Audit of Hotline Allegations -- Managing Appropriations for Foreign Counterintelligence Billets, " finding that the billets were attributed to the proper appropriation authorities but military personnel were performing duties not aligned with their position description and funding. (released August 13, 2018)
  • E-mail communications about former NSA Director Mike Roger's January 8, 2016 meeting with top executives from tech firms in Silicon Valley to discuss countering terrorism online. (released July 23, 2018)
  • Interview notes and talking points from former Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly's NPR interview discussing southwest border security and building the southwest border wall. (released Dec. 28, 2017)
  • Six awarded government contracts from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Methods for Explosive Detection at Standoff (MEDS) program, a program to develop and demonstrate non-contact methods of detecting explosives hidden in opaque media with high water content such as water, mud, or meat/animal carcasses. The contract awardees are: University of Arizona, Stanford University, Northeastern University, Quasar Federal Systems, Niiteck, Inc., and BAE Systems. (released Nov. 16, 2017)
  • Umbrella Agreement, a US-EU data transfer agreement (released Jan. 25, 2016)
  • Standard Operating Procedure 303, a procedure for disrupting cellular communications networks (released July , 2015)
  • National Security Directive 54, a 2009 presidential directive on federal cybersecurity (released June 5, 2014)
  • Documents on the FBI's Carnivore Internet Surveillance System.
  • Memo from Ronald D. Lee, Associate Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice to Jeffrey Hunker, Director, Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office regading the National Information Systems Protection Plan, March 8, 1999. In this memo, Lee expresses concern about the legal authority for establishing FIDNET. Another memo from Jeffrey Hunker, CIAO to CICG Members regarding "Offsite Materials" and identification of "suspicious and anomalous behavior" on the basis of credit card and telephone records.
  • Commerce Department memorandum dated November 1996 in which top Administration official acknowledges that key-escrow encryption is "more costly and less efficient" than the alternatives the government seeks to suppress.
  • White House memorandum from 1991 shows President Bush's support for the digital telephony and Clipper Chip initiatives, and the linkage between the two proposals.
  • The first page of Presidential Decision Directive 29, establishing the secretive Security Policy Board. (Full text of the directive).
  • The cover page of a heavily censored FBI survey of "technological problems" that allegedly hamper wiretapping. (See the EPIC Wiretap Page for more information).
  • A sample page of the FBI wiretap survey.
  • Table of contents for briefing document prepared by FBI, NSA and DOJ and titled "Encryption: The Threat, Applications, and Potential Solutions," and an excerpt recommending a legislative prohibition on non-escrowed encryption. (See the EPIC Cryptography Policy Archive for more information).
  • Transmittal letter from FBI Director William S. Sessions to National Security Council official George J. Tenet, forwarding the FBI/NSA/DOJ above-described briefing document.
  • Cover page of an FBI report titled "Impact of Emerging Telecommunications Technologies on Law Enforcement." The report is undated and classified "Secret." An excerpt calls for a national policy prohibiting cryptography that does not ensure real-time access to law enforcement.
  • Title page for an FBI presentation on encryption policy, which includes a page discussing the need for domestic regulation and prohibition of cryptography that "cannot meet [law enforcement's] standard."
  • Cover page of an FBI report titled "Law Enforcement's Diminished Capability to Conduct Electronic Surveillance." The report is undated and classified "Confidential."
  • A National Security Agency memorandum concerning NSA's role in the development of National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 145, a Presidential directive that prompted Congress to enact the Computer Security Act of 1987 to limit NSA's role in the development of civilian security standards. (See the EPIC Computer Security Act Page for more information).

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