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SUBCOMMITTEE ON LEGISLATION
DANIEL E. SILVER,
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I appreciate
this opportunity to inform this Subcommittee about the
impact that administering the Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) and the Privacy Act is having on the National Security
I will first briefly describe the volume of requests
under the Acts and the cost of compliance.
I then would like
to outline the manner in which requests are handled within
the Agency and the statutory provisions that figure most
prominently in NSA's processing of FOIA and Privacy Act
Finally, I would like to describe particular
problems arising in the application of the FOIA to NSA'S
signals intelligence activiities.
Volume and cost of Requests Under the Acts
The FOIA provides that any person has a right to
access to all records of any federal agency, except such
records or portions of records as may be covered by one of
nine exemptions enumerated in the Act.
The exemptions must
be asserted individually for each covered record or portion
of a record.
Consequently, the fact that a record will
almost certainly fall within a statutory exemption does not relieve the Agency from the obligation to search for
it and review it.
The Privacy Act operates somewhat
Its purpose is to give citizens more control
over what information is collected by the Federal Govern
ment about them and how that information is used.
the Act, agencies are required to report publicly all
requires that the information collected in these systems
of records be accurate, complete, relevant, and timely.
aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence to have access to personal information about them in agencies'
systems of records and to amend inaccuracies that they find
This right of amendment is enforceable in Court.
The Privacy Act, like the FOIA, contains specific exemptions
from release for certain kinds of information.
however, more limited than under the FOIA.
Under the FOIA all of NSA's records are subject to a
request for inspection by any person, whether or not a
citizen or permanent resident alien.
While all classi
fied information, and certain additional information, is exempt from disclosure, the FOIA obligates the Agency to
conduct a reasonable search for documents that are
The Act then places on the Agency
the burden of justifying the withholding of any documents
it may find.
Under the Privacy Act requests may be made
only by citizens and permanent resident aliens, only for
records concerning the requesting party and only for
records located in a "system of records"
system in which records are retrievable by name or per
Because of the more restricted scope
of the Privacy Act, it has so far presented the Agency with considerably fewer problems than the FOIA. The records organized in "systems of records" within NSA, as statutorily defined, are personnel, security and administrative records.
NSA's intelligence records are not filed by name or other
The costs to the Agency of administering the Acts,
although substantial, have not yet become a matter of
In calendar year 1978, the cost to
the Agency of administering the FOIA was about $524,000.
(This includes only direct costs of searching, preparing
The number of requests in calendar year 1978
exceeded the previous year's by more than one-third.
In calendar year 1978, the cost of administering
the Privacy Act was about $125,000, up by 12% over the
The number of requests processed for access
to, or amendment of, records was 318, an 88% increase over
the comparable figure for 1977.
Handling of Requests; statutory exemptions
Requests to the Agency for information
cite the FOIA, the Privacy Act, or both are delivered to the Chief, Policy Staff, who is the initial decision
authority under both Acts.
On the basis of his knowledge
of Agency activities, the Chief, Policy Staff, forwards
copies of each request to those organizations within the
Agency that are likely to have files that may contain the
kinds of records requested.
Privacy Act requests that
cite specific NSA systems of records are forwarded to the custodians of those files. Privacy Act requests citing
no system of records are forwarded to custodians of all
systems of records that might contain information about an individual fitting the description the requester provides. FOIA requests are forwarded to the organizations maintaining files that may contain the records requested.
The effort expended by the Agency in locating records
and reviewing them yields relatively little in terms of
the actual volume of information disclosed.
The vast bulk