July 9, 2013
Now that it’s common knowledge the NSA is collecting metadata  on pretty much any American with a working phone and/or internet connection, some Americans are trying to find out what’s been collected. Multiple FOIA requests have been sent to the NSA, but each one is receiving the same form letter — one that states that any information, including affirmation or denial, would result in “exceptionally grave damage ” to national security.
The DailyKOS has a writeup on another citizen’s attempt to get some info on their info, only to be stonewalled by the NSA’s rejection form letter . David Gershon Harris, the author of the DailyKOS piece, says that “dozens of others” have received similar letters.
It’s not as if there aren’t protections in place that allow redactions of certain information. The problem with the letter this person (IT specialist Clayton Seymour) received is that it points to a specific executive order.
[T]he central problem is this: Seymour’s letter from the NSA points to Executive Order 13526 , signed by President Obama in 2009, as justification for the NSA’s FOIA exemption.
This order signed by Obama established a uniform system for classifying national security information, and stipulates that “information shall not be considered for classification unless its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security.”
This qualification appears in section 1.4 of the executive order, after which follow many categories of information which may be marked as classified. The category the NSA points to in justifying the classification of all its data is this:
“(c) intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology”