The National Security Agency will get to keep secret documents that may, or may not, show a working relationship with Google.
In a decision made public Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon denied a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the curious souls at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC sought documents relating to NSA's possible relationship with Google following news of an alleged cyber attack by hackers in China and of a subsequent cooperation agreement between Google and NSA.
In best IMF mode, the National Security Agency acknowledged working "with a broad range of commercial partners and research associates," but refused to "confirm [ or] deny" whether it even had a relationship with Google. Such information, the Agency argued, "could alert our adversaries to NSA priorities, threat assessments, or countermeasures that mayor may not be employed against future attacks."
Judge Leon agreed and accepted the Agency's conclusion that the requested documents -- if they exist! -- were protected under a very special FOIA exemption. This is Exemption 3, which says material need not be disclosed if it is covered by a separate statute that prohibits disclosure; and the NSA, wouldn't you know, just happens to be covered by such a statute that broadly shields information about "the organization or any function of the National Security Agency, [or] any information with respect to the activities thereof."