One day after publishing startling news about Pentagon efforts to keep information about the so-called “green-on-blue” attacks in Afghanistan out of public view, I received an electronic letter from James P. Hogan, chief of the Defense Freedom of Information Policy Office. In short, Hogan told me I must jump through another “hoop” before one of his staffers can make a determination about a Freedom of Information Act request I filed April 10. After 126 days of trying to obtain a copy of the handbook through official channels, I said, “That’s enough!”
Bearing today’s date, Hogan’s letter arrived as an attachment to an email message and stands as the latest communiqué among dozens related to my request for a copy of the unclassified Army handbook, “Inside the Wire Threat — Afghanistan.” I became interested in the handbook after it was mentioned by Gen. John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (i.e., U.S. and NATO forces) in Afghanistan, during his March 22 Senate Armed Services Committee testimony on the subject of the attacks by members of the Afghan National Security Force and others masquerading as such that have left dozens of American and coalition troops dead and wounded during the past five years.
Despite the fact that I had already indicated to Army and DoD officials that a redacted version of the document, erased of all sensitive content, will satisfy my FOIA request, Hogan explained in his letter — the text of which appears below — the details of yet another “hoop” through which he wants me to “jump”:
Dear Mr. McCarty:
This is concerning your April 10, 2012, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, addressed to the Department of the Army for a copy of the handbook entitled, “Inside the Wire Threats — Afghanistan.”
The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) located the document responsive to your request and upon review of the document determined that portions may be exempt from public disclosure pursuant to Exemption 3 of the FOIA. This exemption protects information prohibited from disclosure by another federal statute. In this instance, 10 U.S.C. § 130e, which protects DoD Critical Infrastructure Security Information (CISI), may apply to the document you requested. I have provided a copy of the statute for your review.
In accordance with 10 U.S.C. § 130e, the Secretary of Defense has delegated the authority to exempt CISI to the Director of Administration and Management (DA&M), Mr. Michael L. Rhodes. As my office is responsible for the review of 10 U.S.C. § 130e actions, TRADOC forwarded your request and the document to us for processing and a final determination by the DA&M.
Section (a)(2) of 10 U.S.C. § 130e requires the DA&M to determine that “the public interest consideration in the disclosure of such information does not outweigh preventing the disclosure of such information” when making the decision to exempt CISI. Accordingly, we are giving you the opportunity to provide the DA&M with information detailing the public interest in the disclosure of the requested information. Any documentation that you wish to provide the DA&M in making his decision should be received in this office by August 31, 2012, and can be sent by email to email@example.com. If we do not receive this documentation by that date, the DA&M will make his decision regarding release of document without your input.
Section (e) of 10 U.S.C. § 130e requires the DA&M to make his exemption determinations and the basis for those determinations available to the public. Because your correspondence to the DA&M is part of the basis of his determination, it will be posted online if he determines the requested information to be exempt from public release.
Please include case number 12FEX130E-004 on all future correspondence involving this matter. If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact this office at 571-372-0462 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After receiving Hogan’s letter and before posting this article, I informed the DoD official that I wanted to withdraw my FOIA request and, in so doing, relieve him and his colleagues of the need to issue a determination on the release of the controversial handbook.
Why on earth would I do that?
I’ll answer that question and many others in my upcoming book, THE CLAPPER MEMO, set for release this fall.
Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com.