Posts Tagged ‘Army’

FOI Daily Dose: Reporters Committee challenges decision hiding records between Army and third-party contractor

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a friend-of-the-court brief earlier this month asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appeals court decision about Exemption 5 of the federal Freedom of Information Act, a news release said.

The case, American Management Services LLC, d/b/a Pinnacle v. Department of the Army, is a civil suit between two private real estate companies, Pinnacle and Clark, that worked on a joint project managing private family housing on two Army bases, according to the American Bar Association. Clark learned that Pinnacle engaged in fraud, and it presented a binder of evidence to the Army, so the Army granted Clark permission to sue Pinnacle.

When Pinnacle found out, it asked the Army for the binder and other communications with Clark, but the Army refused to provide them. Pinnacle filed a FOIA request for the documents and received 55 of them, but the Army refused to disclose more than 800 additional pages based on FOIA Exemptions 4 and 5.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled the Army’s refusal to disclose its communications with Clark was warranted under Exemption 5 because Clark (the third-party contractor) shares a “common interest” with the government.

The Justice Department calls Exemption 5 “quite broad” and says it “protects ‘inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.’”

It also says Exemption 5 has a work-product privilege for information shared between a government agency and “a party holding common interest with the agency.”

But RCFP is questioning the court’s justification on grounds that Exemption 5 typically only shields inter- or intra-agency records and communications—not records between the government and a third-party.

In a July 3 news release announcing their decision to come alongside Pinnacle, Bruce D. Brown, executive director of RCFP, said:  “Congress was very clear in its intent to limit Exemption 5 to internal government records that could be considered privileged in litigation. Allowing the government to broadly withhold records documenting its interactions with third parties creates a dangerous vehicle for government contractors to hide information from the public. In addition to being in conflict with both legislative and judicial precedent, it would become more difficult for the press and, by extension the public, to engage in effective oversight of contractors’ operations.”

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

FOI Daily Dose: Soldiers blow the whistle on Army’s ‘money pit’ intelligence network

One week ago Democratic U.S. senators from Virginia Mark Warner and  Tim Kaine introduced a bill to expand protections for military whistle-blowers and sexual assault victims. Yesterday, a Politico article gave legislators another reason to consider the bill: to protect junior-level soldiers who want to blow the whistle on costly and inefficient battle technologies.

Three soldiers told Politico the Army’s multi-million dollar battlefield intelligence network (DCGS-A) is “a huge, bloated, excessively expensive money pit” too complicated and unreliable to use on the ground level. But the whistle-blowers felt compelled to conceal their identities because top Army commanders praise the system as a high-tech breakthrough that satisfies the long-term need for inter-operable intelligence sharing.

Politico notes that soldiers complaining about the intelligence network have used it routinely in Afghanistan and say it doesn’t work well for their “here and now” needs — especially in remote locations where bandwidth is scarce.

Former-Marine-turned-congressman Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., says it’s yet another example of how Army bureaucracy is out of touch with realities on the ground in Afghanistan, and he’s blowing the whistle on commanders for choosing an intelligence system that won’t be fully operational for several years over a system that meets soldiers’ needs. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Hunter plans to propose an amendment during the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act debate that could cut some of the intelligence network’s funding.

Kara Hackett is SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern, a freelance writer and a free press enthusiast. Contact her at or on Twitter: @KaraHackett.

FOI DAILY DOSE: Army whistleblower hits gov with FOIA lawsuit, Rumsfeld releases new docs revealing secrecy views

Whistleblower sues for info on Army investigation

Army Lt. Col. Michael Holmes, who opposed what he felt were illegal actions while serving in Afghanistan, has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit with fellow solider Laural Levine to gain the release of an Army investigation’s results.

The investigation was launched in response to a Rolling Stone article that detailed how Holmes had spoken out against an Army general’s alleged orders for information operations specialists to employ “psychological operations” on congressional representatives visiting Afghanistan.

These operations are generally used on insurgents, according to the Project on Government Oversight.

Holmes enlisted the help of a military lawyer to ensure that the activities he was to take part in were modified because he felt they would otherwise have been illegal for him to perform.

He and Levine worked closely together in Afghanistan and felt they were later subjected to an Army investigation in retaliation.

For more details on Holmes’ story, check out the Rolling Stone article.

Rumsfeld releases 2005 memos revealing his rhetoric on secrecy

In a November 2005 memorandum then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said the system of government secrecy was, quite frankly, a failure.

He wrote that the government was unable to keep a secret and that policies should reflect that fact.

Another Rumsfeld memo from August 2005 raised the idea of reducing the amount of information that is classified – a goal that is being evaluated by the Obama-ordered Fundamental Classification Guidance Review.

While these memos don’t appear to have had any major effect on policy, they do raise interesting points about government secrecy. The documents were posted on Rumsfeld’s website on July 12 with more than 500 other memos that had been previously undisclosed.

For commentary on the memos and their implications, read this Secrecy News blog post.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email ( or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).



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