Court: NSA Doesn’t Have to Hand Over Presidential Order

Judge Accepts NSA's 'We Didn't Write It' Argument

The NSA scored a big victory in its efforts to keep the basic orders under which it operates secret this week, as US District Judge Beryl Howell rejected a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

The FOIA request dates back to June 2009, when EPIC sought the full text of National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 54, a Bush-era edict on “Cyber Security and Monitoring” which has been governing much of the NSA’s policy decisions, including its massive step up in data collection and the creation of a huge new operations center in Utah.

The NSA admitted to having a copy of the NSPD 54 in their initial response to the FOIA request, but insisted that since President Bush wrote it the document can’t have “originated” within the NSA, and therefore wasn’t subject to FOIA requests.

Years of lawsuits followed, with EPIC citing President Obama’s claims that “in the face of doubt, openness prevails” in FOIA requests, but the judge eventually sided with the NSA, concluding that the directive wasn’t technically an internal document and therefore it would be up to the National Security Council, not the NSA, to release it.

And since the courts have already found the National Security Council exempt from FOIA, that means the NSPD 54 remains secret.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of