(CN) – The National Security Agency does not have to disclose its relationship with Google amid press reports that the two partnered up after hackers in China launched a cyber attack on the U.S. government, a federal judge in Washington ruled.
In February 2010, the Electronic Privacy Information Center requested a number of communications between the NSA and Google regarding cyber security.
Following an alleged Chinese hacker attack, media outlets had reported that NSA teamed up with the web giant for an investigation.
The center, which calls itself a public-interest group dedicated to civil liberties issues, requested records “concerning an agreement or similar basis for collaboration” and “Google’s decision to fail to routinely encrypt” Gmail messages and Google Docs.
The NSA denied the Freedom of Information Act request for the documents.
“While it acknowledged working ‘with a broad range of commercial partners and research associates,’ the Agency refused to ‘confirm [ or] deny’ whether it even had a relationship with Google,” the court’s order said.
This type of answer is known as a Glomar response after the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a ship used in a classified CIA project to raise a sunken Soviet submarine from the Pacific Ocean.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon agreed with the NSA that the requested documents were protected, relying on a declaration by Diane Janosek, NSA deputy associate director for policy and records.
“[A]ny acknowledgement by NSA of the existence or nonexistence of a relationship or agreement with Google … would reveal whether or not NSA considered the alleged attack to be of consequence for critical U.S. government information systems,” Janosek said in her declaration.
The court granted the NSA’s motion for summary judgment on July 8. “Because NSA’s answer is both logical and plausible, the Declaration satisfies all the requirements set forth by our Circuit,” Leon wrote.