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How accessible are secret files in the U.S?

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shockedcanadian Donating Member (224 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-27-11 02:29 AM
Original message
How accessible are secret files in the U.S?
I am curious about this question because as some of you might know I am in a million dollar lawsuit against CSIS (our CIA equivalent except they are only allowed to target Canadians domestically) and I had been denied full access to my file due to "National Security" concerns (see CSIS maintaining secrecy and avoiding embarrassment). Now, in my particular case, the Crown lawyer is not even denying that a file exists, nor is he pleading guilty or not guilty to the charges, but he is instead trying to work the system to shoot down my suit, he is simply avoiding my requests and moving right to eliminating the suit. He is basically attempting to avoid a trail and further discussion on my suit to avoid exposing the truth on the record in a courtroom and without stating as much it is following the same pattern of secrecy and lack of respect for democracy that CSIS did. Real hallmarks of Democracy, but I digress....

My question is this:

In the U.S, assuming one was aware that an agency was targeting them, how accessible would their dossier be? Would a legal recourse force the hand of these agencies to abide by laws or do they also maintain an iron-clad Stalinian control over intelligence as they do in Canada?

As an example. Let's say I was an American citizen and I was aware that I had been targetted by either the FBI or CIA, let's assume it was very clear what was going on and I realized that they were tampering with my employment and/or generally imposing themselves on my life and pursuit of happiness so to speak. If I requested my file would it be readily available to me? It had once been suggested to me that making them aware that you knew what was going on would be enough to have them pull back (this doesn't work in Canada), however, if one wanted to understand what had been collected would it be available and how would it be provided?

I think a defining attribute of a democracy is how a nation handles it's "secrets". The more transparent, honest and direct a nation is in handling this information (within reason of course, I wouldn't expect to be made aware of details that would compromise an ongoing investigation that might place lives at risk a la a terrorist attack), the more trustworthy and "free" they are. It is sort of like the lesson we learned as a kid, your father may discipline you but he will (or should) always tell you why you are being disciplined.
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MADem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-27-11 02:45 AM
Response to Original message
1. I cannot respond specifically, but generallly speaking, if you filed a request for your material
under our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), you would be provided with any material concerning you, assuming that you WORDED THE REQUEST PROPERLY. There are FOIA attorneys who do nothing but that sort of work, to make sure they get anything.

You would be expected to pay administrative costs (the cost of searching the files, making the copies, etc.) which can range from a few bucks to hundreds, even thousands, if we're talking about many databases/lots of files/paperwork.

The other thing that one might not like is that the material may be REDACTED (black lines through certain parts of the documents, or sometimes entire pages blacked out) due to national security concerns. If you're asking for classified material, you'll not get much worthwhile.

About the only way you can get around this is to find a lawyer with the appropriate clearance, who can then petition to be granted access for purposes of preparing for trial. It's a tough climb at times.

This is very general guidance because all situations are different, but that's pretty much the procedure.
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shockedcanadian Donating Member (224 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-27-11 02:54 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Interesting, some similarities...
Edited on Sat Aug-27-11 02:57 AM by shockedcanadian
Though some differences.

I recall going to the FBI website and seeing that there was a way to email them a digital request as long as you specified. In Canada every request has to be made in writing and they require a $5 check, no other form of payment is acceptable.

As a matter of course, anything and everything you receive will be redacted. Basically you will receive only words such as "and", "but" "if" etc, if they show you anythign at all. In my case it was totally redacted except for maybe 3 words, and, I did not have access to National Security info. Again, as a matter of course, everything falls under the National Security and "Classified" heading.

Oh, forgot to add, thanks for the response.
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GESICC Donating Member (17 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-31-11 05:56 AM
Response to Original message
3. Get a judge with a clearance
I am pretty sure you can't dodge the law by saying something's
classified.  Its been tried by the armed forces, I think, the
Dept of Justice has plenty of cleared individuals, and I doubt
seriously, in the light of day the particulars of the secrecy
pertain directly to your case.  Don't blink, raise the BS
flag. 
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chunter Donating Member (21 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-04-11 12:49 PM
Response to Original message
4. Wish they were super accessible. No More Gov. Secrets!
we don't need a murdering organization like the government to have secrets.
endless wars, police state, they don't exactly have a good track record.
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