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A particular organized crime case involved an investigation to identify male juveniles being transported interstate for homosexual activity. Due to fear of reprisals stemming from FOIA disclosures and PA problems, various school officials would not cooperate in the investigation to verify the identity of the juveniles. In the same case, prominent citizens in a community displayed reluctant cooperation with the FBI out of fear of FOIA disclosure.
A potential source advised he would not cooperate with the FBI due to fear his identity would be publicly revealed, which would be detrimental to his profession. This potential source referred to news accounts the local press regarding material made available under the FOIA, which had disclosed the names of several individuals in professional capacities who had assisted the FBI and the nature of their assistance. This type of publicity, according to the potential source, would be detrimental to any individual in business who elected to cooperate with the FBI.
A special agent advised that an individual in a high management position in a state agency wished to provide information to the FBI on a confidential basis. During one of the agent's initial conversations with this source, confidentiality was requested, specifically that the source's name never be mentioned in FBI files due to “past legislation, FOIPA, etc.” This person was in a position to furnish information concerning white collar crime and political corruption; however, the potential source subsequently
refused to cooperate with the FBI, in spite of the agent's assurances. An FBI office has had success in developing a number of valuable informants from a group of loanshark victims. Recently, upon interview, several of these individuals stated a desire to cooperate, but have refused to do so for fear of the subjects of the investigation learning their identities through an FOIPA release.
A criminal informant, who furnished very significant information in an auto mobile theft ring case, advised he feared for his life after reading in various newspapers of disclosures made under the FOIPA. As a result, this source will no longer furnish the information which is singular in nature.
Several attempts have been made to reactivate a former source, who had been extremely cooperative and productive. Current attempts to persuade the source to once again aid the FBI have been negative. The former informant refuses to cooperate, as he believes his identity cannot be kept secure due to FOIPA disclosure policy.
An informant was recently closed inasmuch as the source advised he believed the FBI could not efficiently protect the confidentiality of his relationship and his identity, due to the FOIPA. This source has previously provided excellent information regarding gambling and organized crime. He stated that he is afraid, if his name ever surfaced as providing information to the FBI, he would lose his business and everything he has worked for in his life.
In 1976, an active informant stated he would no longer continue in that capacity because it was his belief as a result of the FOIPA, his identity and confidentiality could no longer be protected.
In an Interstate Transportation In Aid of Racketeering investigation, an individual was successfully developed as a potential source of information concerning racketeering and political corruption. However, upon learning of the provisions of the FOIPĂ, this individual requested that his conversations not be recorded and refused further cooperation.
Another field office informant related a conversation which occurred between himself and several organized crime figures. One individual commented that within the next few years the FBI will be severely restricted in its efforts to obtain information from confidential sources. He stated that he fully expected the provisions of the FOIPA would be successfully utilized in identifying FBI informants. Agents subsequently contacting this valuable source have noted a subtle reluctance on his part to more fully penetrate the particular organized crime activities which he is in a position to cover.
An FBI office in a major city has received information from several reliable informants that most organized crime members in the area have been instructed to write to FBI Headquarters requesting file information pertaining to themselves. These informants have advised the sole purpose of this process is to attempt to identify informants who have supplied information to the FBI on organized crime matters. Requests have been submitted by virtually every organized crime figure in the area.
An informant who has a great deal of knowledge concerning a violent group is reluctant to furnish information on the gang because of the FOIPA. He has considerably reduced the amount of information he furnishes to the FBI.
An informant who has furnished considerable information concerning a terrorist organization advised that he is very upset about the FOIA. He has learned through conversations that former and current extremists are writing to FBI Headquarters under the FOIA in an effort to identify and expose informants. The informant indicated he is apprehensive about the Bureau's ability to properly safeguard information furnished by him.
A long-time confidential informant stated, “I can't help you any more due to the Freedom of Information Act.” This informant had previously furnished valuable information which led to arrests and recovery of Government property. Even though the promise of confidentiality was explained to the informant, he still refused to furnish further information.
A former informant regularly furnished information resulting in recovery of large amounts of stolen Government property and the arrest and conviction of several subjects. In a pending case, the former informant refused to cooperate because of his fear of the FOIPA, which he felt would in fact jeopardize his life should he continue cooperating with the FBI.
In January, 1978, an office of the FBI received information one prime bombing suspect was applying under the FOIA for his file. Sources close to the suspect advised he was seeking to discover the FBI's knowledge of his activities and the identities of agents who were investigating him.
In a western field office, a former highly productive confidential informant advised that he did not feel secure, due to widespread publicity concerning FBI informants and the FOIA legislation. He stated that, although he continued to maintain his confidentiality regarding his relationship with the FBI, he was not sure that the FBI could do the same. Due to this source's feelings, he discontinued all contact with the FBI.
An informant furnished information concerning organized crime figures and on organized crime conditions. Subsequently, the source acquired the conviction that no guarantee could be given that his identity would be protected. Accordingly, the source declined to furnish any further information to the FBI,
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was advised that an informant of one FBI office might be in a position to provide timely information concerning large narcotics shipments, in exchange for a reward from DEA and the guarantee of confidentiality. A local representative of DEA responded that confidentiality could be guaranteed by DEA only in instances where the informant was operated by DEA as a source. DEA reward money could be paid to any individual supplying information; however, the true identity of an FBI source would be reflected in DEA records for such payment. The FBI source was advised of the results of the inquiry with the DEA. The source subsequently furnished the identities of the drug subjects of which he had knowledge. This information was disseminated to DEA. However, the source declined to have further contact with these subjects, for fear his identity would be made known at some later date under an FOIA request to DEA.
An FBI informant is well connected to the organized crime element. Over the past year the informant's productivity has dramatically decreased. Consequently, this decrease was discussed with the informant, who stated that he had begun to doubt the FBI's ability to protect the contents of its own files and information provided by its informants. He had learned that an organized crime figure had received over 300 pages of FBI documents and was unquestionably trying to identify informants.
The criminal informant coordinator of a northeast office has been told by an individual, who would potentially be an excellent source of criminal information on the waterfront, that even though he had cooperated with law enforcement personnel in the past he would never do so again. He stated that he was afraid that one day, as the result of FOIPA, he might "see his name in the newspaper."
An informant who has been furnishing information to special agents of the FBI since 1953, regarding gambling, prostitution, stolen goods, and criminal intelligence information, when last contacted by an agent, indicated he would no longer furnish any information to the FBI due to the fact it could be disclosed under the FOIPA. The informant felt his personal safety could be jeopardized by the disclosure of his identity, and he no longer wanted to take the personal risk and provide information regarding criminal activities.
An organized crime informant has expressed great concern over his safety due to the recent disclosure of information released under the FOIPA. A special agent has advised that he believes the informant will terminate his relationship with the FBI because of his concern.
A confidential source stated he was fearful his name would become known to certain individuals. He cited their possible access through FOIPA requests to the information he has provided. The source became unproductive and contact with him was discontinued.
A confidential source advised that "general street talk” was that one should not provide information to the Government since this information would eventually be publicized as a result of the FOIPA.
A long-time informant announced that he felt his confidentiality could no longer be guaranteed and refused to furnish further information. Provisions of the FOIPA were explained to the informant, particularly relating to disclosure of informants and informants' information; however, this informant still wishes to sever contacts with the FBI.
Agents recently contacted a former criminal informant who associated with several individuals currently under investigation. The source, who displayed knowledge of the FOIA, expressed extreme concern of the disclosure provisions. The two agents spent approximately one-half hour discussing this with the source. Both agents were of the opinion that the FOIA prevented them from obtaining details of value.
An asset advised that, while talking with an individual who is a known intelligence officer of a foreign country, he was advised that certain officials of that country were using the FOIA law to obtain
information from the files of the FBI and other agencies through intermediaries. The official expressed some humor over the fact that such information is available.
An individual, who is in a position to furnish possible foreign counterintelligence information, expressed the opinion the Federal Government could not protect his identity in view of the constant scrutiny by Congress of the FBI and CIA and the subsequent news media leaks. This individual also stated he would be fearful that his identity would be revealed through access to records by the public under the FOIA, as well as extensive civil discovery proceedings exemplified by the Socialist Workers Party civil lawsuit. In addition, this individual expressed concern over former intelligence agency officers who were publishing books, possibly jeopardizing the confidentiality of sources.
In another FBÍ security investigation, an individual was located who was in a unique position to act as an operational asset in foreign counterintelligence activities. While willing to assist the U.S. Government for patriotic reasons, this individual felt his identity might be revealed under the FOIPA. He therefore felt compelled to report a pending highly sensitive undercover operation concerning national security to his employment supervisors, thereby jeopardizing that most sensitive operation.
An informant expressed deep concern over security and possible disclosure of his relationship with the FBI, noting recent instances in which FBI sources had been identified in the press. The informant, who had provided critical information for many years in matters of the highest sensitivity, requested that his relationship with the FBI be terminated and that his name be deleted from the FBI records.
One informant is a well-known and highly respected individual with many dealings with certain foreign countries. The informant has repeatedly voiced concern over possible disclosure of his identity through the FOIÀ. The source has now requested that all contacts be minimized in frequency and duration, that all information furnished by paraphrased, that his real or code names never be used, and that access to his information be severely restricted within the FBI. It has become apparent also, that while the informant's dealings with certain foreigners are known to have increased, the frequency of his FBI contacts, the length of these contacts, and the amount of substantive information furnished have declined.
A former source of excellent quality was recontacted, since his background was such that he could develop information of value concerning a terrorist group.
After three hours of conversation, the former source agreed to cooperate with the FBI but only in a very limited manner. He stated that due to the FOIA he no longer believes that FBI agents can assure his complete protection. He made it clear that he will never again function as he had previously in behalf of the FBI, noting that disclosure of his identity would most assuredly cost him his life.
An individual who has requested his identity be protected and who has provided information pertinent to a suspected foreign government intelligence officer, has also expressed concern pertinent to revelation of his identity as furnishing information to the FBI. This individual querried the special agent involved in the investigation as to whether his identity could be protected and stated that he was concerned because of future business dealings with certain foreign countries. He felt that should his identity become known to foreign government officials, it would cause damage to his business relationships. Because of the above, this individual stated that he did not wish to be contacted on a regular basis by the FBI.
In September, 1977, a former special agent advised an FBI agent that an informant had contacted him upon learning that an FBI subject had obtained documents under the FOIPA. The informant expressed the fear that his identity as a confidential source against this subject would be revealed. This
subject was trying to identify individuals who had provided information to the FBI concerning his activities.
In a western FBI office, and individual was contacted in a recent foreign counterintelligence investigation, as he was in a position to furnish valuable information on
a continuing basis regarding the subject. Although this potential source displayed an otherwise cooperative attitude, he stated he would not furnish information for fear his identity might be revealed at some future date due to provisions of the FOIA.
Members of an organization dedicated to bringing about a movement based on Marxism-Leninism, recently discussed the FOIA. A decision was reached to direct inquiries to both the FBI and the CIA under provisions of the FOIA requesting information concerning the organization. It was anticipated that a comparison of information concerning individuals, including dates, times and activities, would identify informants in the organization.
In 1976, a most valuable and productive FBI informant ceased his activity in behalf of the Bureau. His reason for this decision was his concern over the FOIA, which he believed offered the distinct possibility of disclosing his identity as an informant. This source provided coverage on two major subversive- and/or violenceoriented groups of investigative interest.
Recently an informant, who is furnishing information regarding certain foreign visitors to the United States, expressed great concern over the possibility of his identity being disclosed. The source stated that he recently read in a local newspaper that foreign visitors could gain access to FBI records through the FOIPA.
A businessman was being approached by an intelligence officer of a foreign government. Upon interview by the FBI, the asset stated that were it not for the FOIPA, he would be willing to be operated against this and other hostile intelligence officers. However, because of FOIPA, he felt a real danger that his identity would be divulged which would in turn seriously and detrimentally affect his business overseas. For this reason, asset has refused to become involved in a foreign counterintelligence operation.
Since the advent of the FOIPA, numerous documents containing information furnished by an FBI asset of long-standing have been released under provisions of these laws. These releases have had a deleterious affect upon an asset's relationship with the FBI. There has been a noticeable decrease in the volume of information furnished by the asset, who has been frank to state that he no longer has his former confidence that the FBI can maintain the confidentiality of his relationship. On numerous occasions, the asset has expressed reluctance to furnish information which he fears might be released under the FOIA, resulting in his physical jeopardy or leaving him open to civil suit. This asset has not yet terminated his relationship with the FBI, but the relationship is now a very tenuous one,
A source who previously furnished information on a time basis relating to foreign terrorist activites has expressed reluctance to furnish additional information because of the possibility of his identity being exposed due to the FOIPA.
Senator Hatch. Thank you so much, Mr. Burke. We appreciate your being with us.
Our next witness is James Wieghart of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
Mr. Wieghart is currently the executive director of the New York Daily News. He has been with them since 1969 and served as the Washington bureau chief for 7 years.
He previously worked for the Milwaukee Sentinel.
The Freedom of Information Act has been a valuable tool for the media, and we intend to see that it remains an effective aid to newspapers.
Mr. Wieghart, we welcome you-a long-time Washington journalist-back to the Capital and look forward to discussing that topic
We turn the time over to you.
STATEMENT OF JAMES WIEGHART, AMERICAN SOCIETY OF
NEWSPAPER EDITORS Mr. WIEGHART. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am appearing here before this committee to represent the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
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The American Society of Newspaper Editors is a nationwide professional organization of more than 850 persons who hold positions as directing editors of daily newspapers throughout the United States.
Therefore, we do, Mr. Chairman, have an abiding interest in the Freedom of Information Act.
What I would like to do is summarize my statement, which I will submit for the record.
I would like to make some comments on your statement, Mr. Chairman, and on the statement just given by Mr. Burke for the Secret Service.
Pending before Congress are proposals that would drastically limit the types of information available to journalists and other members of the public under the Freedom of Information Act.
These proposals, in my judgment, would provide blanket exemptions to the CIA, the FBI, and other Federal law enforcement agencies as well.
Before going into that area, I would just like to comment on another proposal-Senator Dole's bill—which would broaden the exemption currently enjoyed now by the business submitters of information to Federal agencies.
As you know, exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act exempts from disclosure under the act “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person, privileged or confidential."
Despite this exemption, a number of spokesmen for the business community have appeared before your subcommittee and said that the Freedom of Information Act can be used as a tool whereby an actual or potential competitor can unearth sensitive business and financial information.
This, of course, is the purpose of Senator Dole's bill.
However, these claims made by some of the witnesses before your committee that additional protection is needed, in my judgment, looking at the testimony, have not been supported or substantiated.
They have said that they face a competitive disadvantage if such information is released, but they have been unable to cite a single instance of competitive injury resulting from Freedom of Information Act disclosures.
A recent study by Prof. Russell B. Stevenson, Jr., of the George Washington University Law Center concluded that businesses have failed to prove a need for broader protection in this regard.
The exemption that Senator Dole proposed would exempt "information which would not be customarily disclosed to the public by businesses.” This exemption would cover all information turned over to the Federal Government by business enterprises other than, of course, promotional and advertising material.
If that exemption were broadened, as Senator Dole suggests, important consumer product safety information, for instance, which is submitted to the Government by businesses, would not be available to the general public.
Turning to the exemptions proposed for the FBI and the CIA, we contend that it would really render ineffective the Freedom of Information Act as it relates to those two particular agencies.