Journalism in the Public Interest

NSA: Responding to this FOIA Would Help “Our Adversaries.”

Here’s what I got when I asked the NSA if they’re collecting my metadata.

Shortly after the Guardian and Washington Post published their Verizon and PRISM stories, I filed a freedom of information request with the NSA seeking any personal data the agency has about me. I didn't expect an answer, but yesterday I received a letter signed by Pamela Phillips, the Chief FOIA Officer at the agency (which really freaked out my wife when she picked up our mail).

The letter, a denial, includes what is known as a Glomar response -- neither a confirmation nor a denial that the agency has my metadata. It also warns that any response would help “our adversaries”:


 Any positive or negative response on a request-by-request basis would allow our adversaries to accumulate information and draw conclusions about the NSA's technical capabilities, sources, and methods.

Our adversaries are likely to evaluate all public responses related to these programs.

Were we to provide positive or negative responses to requests such as yours, our adversaries' compilation of the information provided would reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security."

The letter helpfully states that there are "no assessable fees for the request."

It also contains a paragraph about the ways in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) has authorized the NSA to "acquire telephone metadata, such as the telephone numbers dialed and length of calls, but not the content of [sic] call or the names of the communicants." The court was created in 1978, as we recently laid out in our surveillance timeline.

The letter also mentions section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the government has cited to justify phone metadata collection.

So where does this leave me? According to Aaron Mackey, a staff attorney at the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press, "If you wanted to see those records you would have to file a lawsuit."

I reached out the NSA, to ask among other things, how many other requests about metadata they’ve received.

Update 6/26: Pamela Philips responded to my questions. She told me that "the FOIA Office has received over 1000 requests since June 7th." I asked if the office had approved any Privacy Act requests for metadata, and her response was "no," and added "we do not search operational records on specific individuals."

Charley James

June 25, 2013, 4:26 p.m.

If you didn’t already have a dossier compiled on you at the FBI, NSA, CIA, whatever, chances are you have one now.

If it’s not going to release any data, why does the NSA have a “chief FOIA officer”? Besides turning down requests, which frankly is probably done by a computer cranking out “bed bug” letters,* I cannot imagine how she fills her day.

* - Back in the days when the Pullman Co. operated sleeping cars for the railroads, it received a complaint from a passenger who was incensed at the bedbugs she found in her compartment on the 20th Century Limited. (I think it was the 20th but I could be wrong.)

A few weeks later, the woman found an envelop in her mail from Pullman. When she opened it, what she found was her original complaint but scrawled across the bottom of it was “send this crank the bedbug letter.”

interesting but why would a letter freak out your wife?

bryan jackson

June 25, 2013, 4:42 p.m.

@Charley. You asked, “If it’s not going to release any data, why does the NSA have a “chief FOIA officer”?

Answer: It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it…

The constant statement that these actions follow the law doesn’t abrogate the fact that the law may be illegal! In the early 1940s,following the Pearl Harbor attack,that great liberal Pres.,F.D.R. ordered all Americans of Japanese decent be interred in what amounted to POW camps and even the Supreme Court supported this horrible action! Note:no German Americans were summarily rounded up! Some years later the Government admitted their error and even paid the survivors of these camps reparations;too little too late, and issued an apology! That said,if we give up any of our freedoms for alleged security,we have LOST!

Let me get this straight: the NSA collects metadata that doesn’t include your name or address, and you’re upset because they won’t give you a list of data with your name on it?

How does that work?

Corporations like Kaiser do not call their employment applications as such when applying for a position. Kaiser calls this a “dossier”. Maybe Kaiser, a multi-billion dollar ( billions from the feds alone)not for profit health care system is in more state and federal government such as the VA, Veteran’s administration, (our poor soldiers aren’t the only ones receiving substandard care).has more influence on collecting an/all data on all of us and by far too much influence, starting with kaiser’s own blue print on our government’s policies. After 9/11, anything you applied for such as a credit card and you signed it to get credit, it automatic given, (read the fine print on any application) to give all of your personal info to those who head National Security. For far too long our government has caved in for cheaper modes of operating and now we’re all paying the price among other things, all of our privacy!

clarence swinney

June 26, 2013, 9:06 a.m.

Obama Press Secretary claims Obama has shifted significantly on U.S. Policy
on major counter terrorism issues defined by the Bush years.
Iraq withdrawal date set by Bush—Gitmo—Wiretapping??

Here’s what concerns me about a lot of this:

There is no foreigner or attacker who cares if the NSA has information on Jeff, me, or any other American.  The fact doesn’t reveal any information about evading surveillance (even though such a thing should be guaranteed by Constitutional protections).

A similar concern grows out of claiming that people like Snowden and Manning “aided the enemy,” when they provided information obviously in the public interest to Americans.

The only conclusion I can draw, unfortunately, is that the DoD and possibly the White House consider themselves to be in an adversarial relationship with the people they’re charged with serving.

That’s also backed by the obvious likelihood that no terrorist or even criminal with IQ points outnumbering fingers is going to use GMail or a big-name cellphone to spread the secret plans to his cronies.  The government should know this, so who are they tracking, exactly…?

Bob @ Youngstown

June 26, 2013, 10:48 a.m.

@ Dina,

You wrote above;“now we’re all paying the price among other things, all of our privacy”.

Perhaps I could understand your outrage better if you could describe to me how he NSA programs has affected your life.

Has any of the NSA programs caused you to modify your behavior, and at what specific cost (in US dollars please) have you had to endure by that modification.

clarence swinney

June 26, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

Who Dug the Deep Hole?  Who Fumbled the ball?
Numbers rounded

Clinton left Bush an 1800B Budget
Bush Left Obama a 3500 Budget

Clinton left Bush a 240B Surplus as far as the eye can see
Bush left Obama a 1400B Deficit as far as the eye can see

Clinton left Bush 5,700B of Debt
Bush left Obama 11,800B of Debt

Clinton left Bush a 237,000 net new jobs created per month
Bush left Obama a 31,000 lowest number since Hoover.

Clinton left Bush 17 Million Manufacturing Jobs
Bush left Obama 11 Million Manufacturing Jobs

Clinton left Bush a 10,800 Dow
Bush left Obama an 8028 Dow

Clinton left Bush Peace on Earth Good Will From Most Men
Bush left Obama Hell on Earth Two disastrous wars. Enmity of 1500 Million Muslims

Clinton left Bush a President most highly rated of any peacetime President in Asia, Africa, Europe.
Bush left Obama the most hated President in history
Bush left Obama an Housing Tsunami and Financial Volcano
Bush left Obama, in 2008, an 8500B Bail out commitment Yes! 8500 not just 700
Bush left Obama his Takeover of Fannie/Freddie, AIG, and first bailout of Chrysler
Bush increased maximum loan by Fannie/Freddie from $153,000 in 2000 to $300,000 then to $729,000
That is how F&F got stuck with so many toxic mortgages. Bush gift to Big Bank pals.
Bush increased FDIC maximum deposit coverage from $100,000 to $250,000. Help the rich.

June 26, 2013, 11:46 a.m.

When my phone was being tapped and my PC hacked along with the web host. We had the call the FBI, after I had to fight with them to get the constant tapping and hacking was going on by a movie studio owner, one Stuart Lichter who filed a SLAPP suit against us for proving he got such a deal on U.S.federal land to build that studio on toxic land.  The FBIT did not want to take any of our complaints but I demanded they do.The FBI took far too many months to even call me and then they asked for my phone carrier but not my PC server. My emails change as I write them. That takes a lot of power to change as I’m typing forever altering my original email. I’m still being tapped and been hacked about 6 times losing everything, even a book that I was writing on Microsoft word. The second to last complete hack was after I contacted the office of Patrick Leahy, head of the U.S. Judicial Dept. and I had written to him via his website and JUST AFTER talking with his staff. The very next day, my PC was empty.
The last thing the government wants from me is to expose their huge dirty secret in how injured workers claims money is really being used.
FOR phony wars and setting up permanent shop in countries that really don’t want us there. AND those who are part of this! Just think of who screams the most about wanting to get Snowden and you be looking at one who has THE fear of being found out about what and how this all happens and WHY!. WC claims are just one of the many DIRTY bubbles of hidden money used for the military and CIA’s dirty work all via KPMG, our government’s own accounting form. And if anyone wants to really know, KPMG really is about fuzzy funneled illegal money that belongs to the American people, American people who have donated most of their savings unwillingly and are now being blamed for the economy!. There are bigger things at work here and the NSA has reason to want to help hide the trails of info of what some people know!

Obama is burdened by the same responsibility that former President Bush was, an obligaiton to protect the nation and it’s citizens.

I would agree that President Obama is just as burdened about protecting our nation’s citizens as was Bush. But there are more protections for certain public officials which this is all really about and thus causing less protections for our nations’ citizens. Spending billions to building huge public agencies to house all of our megadata, all digital operations emails,ipads iphone’s phone calls,  everything we use to communicate and data from any of our applications, etc… just seems to fly in the face for protections for the most of us. Don’t forget your T.V.‘s. too. Reading Orwell back in 1985 for me is a nightmare come true!

bryan jackson

June 26, 2013, 6:30 p.m.

@John. You said that a “similar concern grows out of claiming that people like Snowden and Manning “aided the enemy,” when they provided information obviously in the public interest to Americans.”

Obviously when the Powers That Be use this phrase (i.e., “aided the enemy”) they include the American people among their enemies!

Impeach Obama!

Perhaps a few undetected terrorist attacks is a small price to pay so we can all download P***ography without worrying that it is being recorded somewhere.

That’s my concern, Bryan.  Step after step taken by Washington seems to imply that they’re standing against the people.

CDA, or you might have a psychotic spouse who works for the NSA and you’d prefer he/she not follow you around to make threats.  Or you might be a journalist who needs to protect your sources from government harassment.  Or you might be a whistleblower telling the American people the military is spying on them.  If you don’t understand the distinction or don’t want rights, I encourage you to move to a country that doesn’t have protect them.  Afghanistan is probably very nice, this time of year, and their crackdown on rights has left the place perfectly safe, I’m sure.

I was raised to believe that Americans die rather than sacrifice their rights.  We don’t bow down to tyrants for the sake of comfort.  So yes, occasional attacks are the price we pay for being free, and it’s a pretty good bargain.  (Before you try to condemn me for callousness, I live in lower New York and knew about a dozen people who died in the World Trade Center personally.  So, I don’t say this lightly.)

And by the way, how well did this program protect the folks at the Boston Marathon?  You know, where we had actionable intelligence from multiple sources about the attack in advance, plus access to all this collected intelligence.  Or perhaps you’re using a new definition of “protect” that hasn’t made it to my dictionary.

Dina, I still think Kafka’s “The Trial” is a much better match.  A man is arrested and charged with a crime they can’t tell him about, under laws he’s not allowed to know about, with no recourse or appeal.  Many people in the defendant’s life turn out to be officers of the court, putting him under effective constant surveillance.  They also commandeer random spaces as offices and use an apartment as a courtroom.  People who try to help are abducted and tortured for their trouble.  It’s as close to an NSA textbook as anything I’ve ever seen.

(There’s also something of Don Quixote’s helmet of Mambrino (the mythical Moorish king), the barber’s washbasin that the knight errant wears on his head and mistakenly believes it protects him from all harm even as he’s hurt time and time again.  But that’s fun to read about.)

John, I read the book by Alexander Solshintzen in 1976 called the Cncer Ward” and who also wrote many others books about life in Russia. This book am to fruition right here in the U.S. AND what is worse I actually got to work for an employer called Kaiser here in CA & other states. that was all described in the book, the Cancer Ward. What else it shows is what is going on in today’s world, with many excepting spoon fed pablum that is to undermine the American way of life and democracy.. The Trial along with Cancer ward shows how everything is under minded and how people get poor medical care and the way it is don! This book, the Cancer Ward does directly reminds me of the what does goes on today in the our country operates in everything. What is especially sad is that this book was about what once was the U.S.S..R. and is now the U.S.A.!

Bob @ Youngstown

June 27, 2013, 7:30 p.m.

I am still awaiting your answer about how the NSA program has affected your life.

Sorry to hear that your phone was tapped, were you able to prove that or is that just an allegation you have made. Did you have any proof?

Dina J Padilla

June 28, 2013, 11:26 a.m.

The FBI intervened and it was stopped temporarily AND YES I do have proof other wise I wouldn’t be as stupod to just say this stuff to people to read and embarrass myself. If you had really read my email, you would have seen that for yourself But it is still happening again & again & again! ESPECIALLY SO, when the words, cia, military, kpmg/kaiser, Bain and a few other words that are involved like war. Irag… have been used in any of my emails. These particular emails are the ones that get stopped and altered in front of my face. Does that answer your question? AND it has been going on for years!
When I mentioned kpmg to the FBI in 2008, he said he really didn’t want to go “there”. The FBI & NSA do share info and all that info you put on all of your applications for mortgage, credit card banking medical care etc…DOES go to the National Security. It’s all out in the open. If you read the back side of long apps, you’ll see it where it is written to give over any/all info automatically all in the interest of national security!
John, I also want to say I agree with you. When I was much younger, the view of patriotism was far different than it is today.  Now it is who do you go and spy on and then shoot. The least I can I can say is that people were more concerned about their families, their community. There was a lot more compassion. Many of us, didn’t have a whole lot, but we had a sense of being connected and caring. about one another and we had our debates about everything on the good old stoop where nowadays is just a shooting target. I don’t see that very much anymore,  and now what I do see is people caring more about their material things and who makes the most money. Those that have the most money have created in indifferent world besides albeit, a violent one, all for MONEY!

Dina J Padilla

June 28, 2013, 12:20 p.m.

Forgive my spelling errors. Ralph Nader’s VP Matt Gonzales was our attorney in the SLAPP suit in 2008 when I was speaking to the FBI(several times). There is more info on the net and also on and Downey is just one incident of government corruption and waste and also causing people to get sick and worse, die!.I think what I try to convey is that the NSA & FBI are funded by kpmg among other agencies. KPMG also funded money to the wars in the mideast and money is funneled from other countries to the very secretive swiss bank accounts. without their knowledge and just maybe why we are having austerity and riots all over the world.. KPMG is some of the shadowy govt funding that is funded by money taken illegally in several ways. KPMG is owned and operated by us, our govt but again it is a shadowy acc’t firm for some shadowy agencies and IF I ahdn’t seen and sent the info to a law firm in D.C. I wouldn’t say a damn thing.
IF I was also any part of KPMG, I would be spying on people like me too, too protect the egregious theft of the country that I’m robbing and it doesn’t matter wht copuntry because I ahve no patriotism, only an allegence to MONEY!!!
!The American people have been hoodwinked, lied to and then the marketing spin about what the NSA and other secret agencies are doing for us. B.S. AND I’m not saying all of them are doing this but the top of these agencies are and the NSA is protecting those that stole WHO hoodwinked most Americans among other countries and their peoples.
I’ve been called the “nut n slut” before but KPMG did get caught, sadly with no specifics to the public but we have that data and now it will go on the net for all to understand and see how the real theft really works, so it would not bother me for anyone to do it again, calling me the nut n slut or disgruntled because I and others do have the proof. I now must just be another disgruntled patriotic American!
For those who are reading this about our proof data, well let’s just say it’s in a much safer place the NSA!

Bob @ Youngstown

June 28, 2013, 1:34 p.m.

You specifically stated your telephone was tapped. You say that you had proof and provided that proof to the FBI.

Warrantless telephone taps are criminal, what did you do about that?

Please confine your answer to telephone taps, don’t confuse the issue with internet or PC hacking or keystroke viruses. Just tell me about telephone wiretaps.

Dina J Padilla

June 28, 2013, 1:51 p.m.

As I said, I reported this to the FBI with a written and phone complaint! 
I made the complaint in the summer of 2008 and heard verbally from the FBI in early 2009.  The FBI agent said that there was a variety of ways to know how the phone is tapped and believe me when he covered about all of the ways I could tell that the tapping was being done. I was not the only person this happened to.
I did not know or was not informed to do anything else! The phone taps have been going on for a very long time and is still happening and I know it is illegal.
To which I am told to automatically assume there is someone else on the phone listening besides me and the other party, to whom I’m talking to and many times it is all too obvious that an unwanted 3rd party is on the phone or recording my calls! It also now happening also on a cell phone I use, which is under another completely different name because they, the name it is under, pays for the cell phone.
Hope that is enough!

Dina j. Padilla

June 29, 2013, 1:48 p.m.

To Bob Youngston, I’d like to know why you want to know, who are you and what exactly are you going to do with my info? Since you are so demanding, I, at least deserve an answer from you as you did with me!

Dina J. Padilla

June 29, 2013, 2:16 p.m.

Clarence, I really appreciate you literally and figuratively breaking down the Bush’es mess. It is sad to say that when I worked for a medical care facility at kaiser in 1992(I was on my way out, all thanks to kaiser’s idea of EEO) when a more than obvious military nurse supervisor told me that the military knows it will have to sacrifice 500,000 of American soldiers. At that time I didn’t know why she blurted that out of the blue. Now I do, and yes us kaiser injure workers were part of that preplaning of how our soldiers are not only duped into phony wars for war mongerer,s but to what degree they will go to ensure profiting and yes starting a war that may never be stopped in our lifetime. How many anti-depressants can you give a human being( among many other mild altering drugs by the jar loads) and keep them working! AND to John, a marine Sgt told my youngest daughter, just two days after 9/11 that we were going to war and that she should stay very close to family & home (don’t travel) and that it wouldn’t be over for 10-20 years. Another woman gets a call from her colonel son at the Pentagon who was told to move his belonging out of the pentagon building 2 days prior to 9/11. While at kaiser we were told ONCE to train and volunteer for outside medical emergencies, anywhere in the country. That was in 1991. There was a doctor convention in NYC at the time of 9// and I need to ask as to how many of these docs were kaiser docs. One of the reasons I say these things is because, kaiser is in charge of the VA, writing policy as they do for their employees, anti-depressants ill you drop dead one way or another, gonna gonna gonna gitcha ya!! There are some other things related to the 9/11 code. It is a medical emergency code and why on 9/11 was this called 9/11?

Bob @ Youngstown

June 29, 2013, 2:19 p.m.

@ Dina,
First who am I, just an everyday US citizen, no special connections, no ties to the FBI or NSA, just a (older) guy who has continues to realize that there is a lot to learn from other people’s experiences.

I/m not going to do anything with “your information”, I have no specific interest in you or what your activities (political or otherwise) are about.

As to why I’d like to know, that pretty simple. You claim that a crime is being (and continues to) committed against you. You have reported it to the proper authorities (I think the FBI is the proper authority). You have provided proof (presumably satisfactory to law enforcement)

Not to put words in your mouth, but it seems that you are saying that the FBI is unable to do anything about this crime.

I just have the sense that there is more to the telephone wiretap story. Either the FBI is conducting the wiretap, or they know who is conducting the wiretap and are prevented from prosecuting, or the FBI does not have the capacity to apprehend the person wiretaping, or whatever

Dina J. Padilla

June 29, 2013, 2:39 p.m.

Bob, thanks for that info, and to let you know that my experience with the FBI isn’t the only one with my type of problems but there ARE others. I’ve been to their office because of another citizen going through the same thing with the same corporation, called kaiser. What I do surmise with these FBI experiences, that the attitude of the FBI is that they are being hamstrung to put a stop to all of this and it is by influential corporations being allowed to dominate by some of our most influential and long termed politicians who have gained far too much much and have a great deal to lose including living in a 15 million home. It is a total abuse of power that is totally corrupt and as fraudulent as any undemocratic country gets! When average folks/citizens cannot receive due process no matter the judicial venue or get a legit case in court and then they are smeared as though they are a criminal and the continually persecuted by those criminals who created the corrupt situation in the first place, then I say, we no longer have a democracy and now no worse than China or Russia. It is everyday life here in any town U.S.A.. where it is claimed to have many protections but nobody is really protected from any real crimes. I grew up (I’m older too) when a person was rewarded for good behavior and it’s quite the other way around for several decades since Nixon. Not to say all pols are crooked but some of those who have been in power for years and or are still connected to that old power have inexcusably dismantled our great country and that to me is what I call THE real meaning of a TRAITOR!

Bob @ Youngstown

June 29, 2013, 2:59 p.m.

@ Dina,
Then are you saying that Kaiser is controlling your local FBI office?

Richard D. Hughes

June 29, 2013, 4:20 p.m.

Must be that Pro Publica is one of NSA’s adversaries.

Keep up the good work!

Dina J. Padilla

June 30, 2013, 1:08 p.m.

Bob, YES! That is what I’m saying. There are reasons though, when you have kaiser as your health care provider, the other is kaiser has it’s influence in many things in the local state and federal government and courts and the paramilitary such as local, state and federal enforcement! Over 28 years of knowing kaiser as I do, gives me the unpleasant distinction to know kaiser more than I know myself. Back in the mid 90’s a friend of mine went to a kaiser facility and lo & behold, there was security police like Iv’e never has seen before(out of the bushes, maybe) and then a SAC cty Sheriff helicopter came directly over us, shone their million dollar flash light and I told the driver, we need to get out of here, even though she was a patient . We managed to flee, with a kaiser security cop speeding after us on a public street.
It was all so surreal, like in a movie but all too real, with kaiser’s security chasing us with a sac sheriff cty helicopter.
When I called the SAC cty department about major drug selling by kaiser management, I was hooked directly to a phone line to a kaiser security line in Oakland.  NO breka in the call to the sac sheriff department .A worker was murdered in a so sac kaiser facility. the FBI came in and the whole murder (body moved before a medical examiner could make it to the building was never brought to the public eye even though KCRA ( I called them) tried to go to that facility but was denied access. The workers there were scared (s——-s) and kaiser tried to tell the other employees that he committed suicide which they never reported to OSHA either along with missing very important department keys to the murdered worker’s dept. Kaiser has had about 7 work related suicides and nothing by any agency. We reported asbestos to osha among other contaminates and that is just here in SAC. It was like being a movie!
Now, I say that kaiser has a lot of clout, perhaps much too much, where kaiser can get away with hiding a murder on it’s own property, get to shy away the local media, and its own security is well connected to the police departments including the FBI. How can anyone win with anything when a company has clout and influence like that? AND we pay for it through federal and state tax dollars because kaiser gets many millions per year from federal axes. AND they had an office in the white house along with kpmg while Bush was in power. I would go so far as to say that kaiser IS part of the federal government but not limited to!

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