A Look Behind the FBI's Redacted Documents

When the FBI releases information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the law allows it to redact classified or sensitive information from the documents.

Frequently, however, it redacts far more than it has any reason to.

Below, compare the redacted documents EFF received in a 2007 FOIA request with their unredacted counterparts, as revealed by an FBI whistleblower in 2010. Each of the redactions concerns the FBI's attempts to avoid court oversight of its inappropriate surveillance tactics through the use of pre-emptive "umbrella" authorizations. However, these umbrella authorizations had already been revealed to the public in a March 2007 DOJ Inspector General report.

Move your mouse over the documents to reveal the hidden text:

Doc #1: March 11, 2005 Email
download: redacted ">unredacted


...The issue arose as to what file we issue the (National Security Letters) persuant to. As you may remember, we agreed that we would look at a proposed solution whereby we open very broad (preliminary investigations) that could be ongoing and would encompass future threats. CAU and I came up with a list of six (preliminary investigations) that we could open that would encompass most, if not all, of the emergency requests that came in....


Doc #2: April 2, 2005 Email
download: ">redacted ">unredacted


Lizanne suggested I re-send this to you, so yell at her, please, if you think I'm badgering you. Just so you know, we still have this problem with CAU and their backlog of NSLs, which cannot be relieved until generic (preliminary investigations) are opened. CAU would like us to put something out to pressure (The International Terrorism Operations Section) to open these up....


Doc #3: May 27, 2005 Email
download: ">redacted ">unredacted


Subject: Creation of umbrella files to cover emergency (national security letters)

Bassem, we have discussed the issue with (The International Terrorism Operations Section) since they are the ones who would be creating the umbrella files that you would be using as the basis for your emergency NSLs....


Doc #4: September 22, 2005 Email
download: ">redacted ">unredacted


We would like to set up a meeting on Monday, September 26 at 12:15p.m. at LX-1 to discuss the issue of assisting CAU in its efforts to obtain NSLs to validate the gathering of information obtained in emergency situations. (The Office of the General Counsel) has suggested the opening of umbrella-type preliminary investigations which would cover most, if not all, of the emergency situations brought to CAU for the purpose of obtaining telephone information. To do so, we need the assistance of (The International Terrorism Operations Sections I and II)...


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