Hacker News, the NSA and Freedom

I’m not an excessively active member of HN and might only check the site once a week or so. At least, that’s how I was before this summer. I’ve always been able to pick up on the latest information by simply watching most of the news outlets so HN did not seem much benefit except to discuss a subject and most of the time I do not have time/don’t have enough emotionally invested to discuss. However, this summer I had some extra time and decided to give it a whorl and actually take the time to discuss articles I find on HN.

Turns out at the same time I decided to start participating in HN Edward Snowden decided to release a large amount of information and make headlines around the world. For most of the summer there has been one Snowden article or another trending in the top spot(s) of HN and there has been a huge amount of discussion. Sitting here reading yet another article I came up with an idea…<p>Most of the discussion on HN regarding Snowden, the NSA, and actually a stunning amount of related topics all come down to the idea the spying and essentially anything that can reduce freedom is wrong. So I don’t know how many people will actually read up to this point, but why not take a step to at the very least show the government that freedom is a big part of our lives.<p>Most of the people on HN seem to be fairly busy and hardworking people, yet all seem to care a large amount for the state of the United States (of which everyone in the world seems to be at least in part effected by) and society at large. With this in mind I asked myself what could a community do that is passionate about changing the world to a more free place? Then it hit me…

FOIA allows for any individual CITIZEN OR NOT (according to their website) to submit a FOIA request for information that has a whole list of exemptions, but in those exemptions those exemptions it does not say that you cannot ask about basic data similar to meta data. More over, the simple fact that an individual is making the effort to fill out a FOIA form makes a small statement to the government that you want some information that is not currently available and should be made so.

List of exemptions:

Exemption 1: Information that is classified to protect national security.  The material must be properly classified under an Executive Order.

Exemption 2: Information related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.

Exemption 3: Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law. Additional resources on the use of Exemption 3 can be found on the Department of Justice FOIA Resources page.

Exemption 4: Information that concerns business trade secrets or other confidential commercial or financial information.

Exemption 5: Information that concerns communications within or between agencies which are protected by legal privileges, that include but are not limited to:

  1. Attorney-Work Product Privilege
  2. Attorney-Client Privilege
  3. Deliberative Process Privilege
  4. Presidential Communications Privilege

Exemption 6: Information that, if disclosed, would invade another individual’s personal privacy.

Exemption 7: Information compiled for law enforcement purposes if one of the following harms would occur.  Law enforcement information is exempt if it:

  • 7(A). Could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings
  • 7(B). Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication
  • 7(C). Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy
  • 7(D). Could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source
  • 7(E). Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions
  • 7(F). Could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual

Exemption 8: Information that concerns the supervision of financial institutions.

Exemption 9: Geological information on wells.

With this in mind, I personally intend to form several FOIA requests that I would like to know about. EXAMPLE: How many laws there are that I as a citizen do not currently have access to view (obviously I would need to phrase/format that differently to receive the information)? From what I have seen on HN many might be willing/know of other things to request that would be prudent to the discussion’s here on HN.

Even more important than the information, why not have a protest by simply filling out FOIA forms? All the busy people only take out a couple hours, protest by sending FOIA in and creating a backlog so large it’ll take years to figure out. Reek havoc by asking the government to share what it knows, protest the government lying to the populous, make a statement that would likely make the mainstream news people listen, and perhaps if everyone bundles all the information we obtain in one place some insight into the secrets the government have been keeping might even be gleaned.

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