The NSA Couldn't Answer Our FOIA Request Because It Couldn't Figure Out Our Address

This article is from the archive of our partner .

It's possible we've been overly generous in our assessments of the intelligence gathering capabilities of the NSA. They would have responded to our FOIA request, you see, but they had the wrong address – and there was no way for them to get that address but to email us and ask for it.

Like many others, the detailed reports on NSA surveillance by The Guardian last month, prompted us to send requests under the Freedom of Information Act to a variety of government agencies, the NSA included. We heard back from the Army relatively quickly, and by email, as requested. While the response wasn't a smashing success — the Army was not able to provide us any information about Snowden's military file, despite parts of it having been released to the press previously — at least we got something.

Until today, not a word from the other two agencies. We remained optimistic. Despite reports that the NSA was universally blocking FOIA requests, perhaps our request was offer something interesting. Perhaps that was why it was taking so long to hear back.

Nope. Today, we got a response.

This email is in response to your request submitted to the National Security Agency (NSA) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) office. Your request letter, dated 10 June 2013, was received in our office on 1 July and assigned Case Number 72150. We mailed our response to your FOIA request on or about 11 July 2013.

However, the USPS returned our correspondence today, as a “Return to sender – Attempted Not Known – Unable to Forward.” Please provide your most current, complete address (apartment #, business name, suite #, floor # etc) so that we may resend our response to you.

Then the NSA's FOIA Officer included the address to which they tried to send the response — 736 Spring St. — an address that would require our office be somewhere just off the Jersey City shore in the Hudson River, or maybe in the Holland Tunnel. (It isn't.)

Recommended Reading

Neither the envelope nor the letterhead included that mid-river address, it hopefully goes without saying. (You can see the correct address on the envelope in the picture above.) It is, however, easily accessible if you Google "Atlantic Wire address." (That's how we figured out their address.) But last week we learned that the NSA hasn't yet mastered searches of its own email system, much less, we might assume, internet search engines. The agency's skill with Google may extend only so far as what it needs for PRISM, and no further.

Anyway, we provided that address and then asked that the response be scanned and sent electronically as, again, had been originally requested. Once they get that scanner hooked up and humming, we're confident that a response is imminent.

Photo: Or, maybe they don't.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.