In United States law, the term Glomar response (aka Glomarization or Glomar denial) refers to a "neither confirm nor deny" response to Freedom of Information Act requests. There are two types of instances in which Glomarization has been used. The first is in a national security contexts, where to deny a request on national securities grounds would provide information that the documents or programs which the requester is seeking indeed exists. Glomarization is also used in the case of privacy, in which a response as to whether or not a person is or is not mentioned in law enforcement files may have a stigmatizing connotation.
Lower court precedent has thus far ruled the Glomar response to have potential merit, if the secretive nature of the material truly requires it, and only if the agency provides "as much information as possible" to justify its claim. Otherwise, the principles established in FOIA may trump claims to secrecy.
The Glomar Explorer was a large salvage vessel built by the Central Intelligence Agency for its covert "Project Azorian" — an attempted salvaging of a sunken Soviet submarine. Aware of the pending publication of a story in the Los Angeles Times, the CIA sought to stop the story's publication. Journalist Harriet Ann Phillippi requested that the CIA provide disclosure of both the Glomar project and its attempts to censor the story, to which the CIA chose to "neither confirm nor deny" both the project's existence and its attempts to keep the story unpublished. This claim stood, and Phillippi's FOIA request was rejected, though when the Ford administration was replaced by the Carter administration in 1976, the government position on the particular case was softened and both of Phillippi's claims were confirmed.
The "Glomar response" precedent still stood, and has since had bearing in FOIA cases such as in the recent American Civil Liberties Union v. Department of Defense, wherein Federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected the Department of Defense and CIA's use of the Glomar response in refusing to release documents and photos depicting abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.
- FOIA Update, Vol. VII, No. 1, Page 3 (1986). "OIP Guidance: Privacy "Glomarization"". United States Department of Justice.
- Burleson, Clyde W (1997). The Jennifer Project. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.
- Varner, Roy D (1979). Matter of Risk: The Incredible Inside Story of the CIA's Hughes Glomar Explorer Mission to Raise a Russian Submarine. New York: Random House.
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