Instead of stating no building plan was sanctioned, the deemed PIO said information was not available. The CIC, then issued a show-cause notice to the deemed PIO for providing the false and misleading information. This is the 139th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
The Central Information Commission (CIC), while allowing an appeal, directed the Public Information Officer (PIO) at the office of Superintending Engineer (B)-II at Rohini Zone of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to provide specific information sought by the appellant. The CIC also issued a show-cause notice to the deemed PIO who was found guilty of furnishing false and misleading information.
While giving this judgement on 21 March 2011, Shailesh Gandhi, the then Central Information Commissioner said, “It appears that this is a collusion with people who construct illegal buildings and misleading information has been given to prolong the matter so that illegal building could be completed before the matter comes to the Commission.”
New Delhi resident RH Bansal, on 1 July 2010, sought information about an illegal building from the PIO of MCD. Here is the information he sought and reply provided by the PIO under the Right to Information (RTI) Act...
1. Whether the map of above said building was approved.
PIO's reply: The information is not available in the office of the Executive Engineer.
2. Whether the above said building was made as per map.
PIO's reply: As above
3. Certified copy of the approved map.
PIO's reply: As above
4. What was the duty of engineers of concerned area?
PIO's reply: Information sought is not under the preview of RTI Act, 2005.
Not satisfied with the PIO's reply, Bansal filed his first appeal. In his order the First Appellate Authority (FAA) stated that he had gone through the appeal memo and reply furnished by the PIO. “The grievance of the appellant is that he has not received the reply. However the PIO stated that the reply has already been furnished to the applicant. A copy of the same was handed over to the appellant during the proceedings. The appellant is now satisfied,” the FAA said in his order.
Bansal then approached the CIC with his second appeal stating unsatisfactory reply provided by the PIO.
During the hearing before Mr Gandhi, the then CIC, the PIO admitted that the plan of the said building would have to be sanctioned by his office and it appeared that an illegal building had been constructed.
Bansal, however pointed out that the illegal building was completed and he was informed that a sanctioned building plan was not available in the office of the Superintending Engineer (B)-II, Rohini Zone, in Delhi. He also told the Bench that a building was being constructed when he filed the RTI application.
Mr Gandhi noted that since the PIO agreed that the building plan would have to be sanctioned by his office only, the information, which should have been provided was that no building plan had been sanctioned. “It is apparent that clear information was not given. If the plan could have been sanctioned by some other office, then the RTI application should have been transferred under Section-6(3) or assistance could have been sought under Section-5(4) of the RTI Act,” the CIC noted.
The PIO MP Gupta pointed out that the person responsible for giving this irrelevant information was KR Meena, assistant engineer (B). Meena, the deemed PIO, was also present during the hearing, but did not give any explanation for providing the false and misleading information.
Mr Gandhi, the CIC, asked the deemed PIO Meena to explain the reasons for giving such misleading and false information. Meena stated that in future he would correct this mistake.
While allowing the appeal, the Bench said, “The information that should have been provided was that no building plan had been sanctioned. Instead, information was provided stating that the information was not available in this office. It appears that this is collusion with people who construct illegal buildings and misleading information has been given to prolong the matter so that illegal building could be completed before the matter comes to the Commission.”
Mr Gandhi then directed the PIO to give specific information to Bansal before 30 March 2011.
From the facts, the Bench said, it found the deemed PIO guilty of furnishing false and misleading information. Mr Gandhi then issued a show-cause notice to Meena, the deemed PIO, directing him to give his reasons to the CIC as to why penalty should not be imposed upon him for furnishing false and misleading information.
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2011/000123/11564
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2011/000123
Appellant : RH Bansal
Phase-II, New Delhi
Respondent : MP Gupta
Public Information Officer & SE-II
Municipal Corporation of Delhi
O/o Superintending Engineer (B)-II, Rohini Zone,
GSPC still needs to obtain various clearances relating to environmental and coastal regulatory zone clearances for laying some 10 km underground pipeline and commissioning of the onshore terminal
Although Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) struck gas in the KG (Krishna-Godavari) block, close to Reliance Industries’ own reservoir, way back in 2005, it is still struggling to get green clearances.
This $1.8 billion project, where GSPC holds 80%, Jubilant 10% and Geoglobal 10%, was originally scheduled to go on stream this month. Initially, it expects to operate two wells, estimated to pump out 100,000 standard cubic metre (scm) and at the peak reach anything between 5.7 mmscmd and 8.6 mmscmd (million metric standard cubic metres of gas per day). This will bring a great relief to the gas-starved country.
Meantime, GSPC is striving to get the clearances to commence its operations!
GSPC has a long history and has made several discoveries in hydrocarbon resources in the KG basin, Cambay basin, Tarapur block, Ahmedabad, Sanad-Miroli block and Ankaleshwar block. Besides these, GSPC has other exploratory licences in other areas and work and investments are progressing in these areas.
In discovering gas in 2005, GSPC has made rapid progress, despite various obstacles it faced, including the location of gas wells deep in the seabed. According to information available, most of which are on its website, the operation to extract gas involves the imperative need to overcome high temperature and pressure at the reservoir. Well, not to speak of the hurdles in getting clearances.
The required off gas extraction facilities have been set up. But GSPC still needs to obtain various clearances relating to environmental and coastal regulatory zone clearances for laying some 10 km underground pipeline and commissioning of the onshore terminal.
So far, it has received several assurances to speed up the process of environmental clearances, but these are obviously sitting pretty on someone’s table. As we have stated in the past, on such issues, there are NO pending papers on Jayanthi Natarajan’s table, who is currently the minister of environment and forests!
This writer has also taken up the issue with Sandeep Dave, company secretary, GSPC, to know the current status and to find the true obstacles that are in the way of getting clearances. No reply has been received so far.
A look at the procedures involved and the various departments concerned for getting clearances, is mind boggling. These again, are available on GSPC’s website but the pity is that nearly a decade after gas is found, we are still stuck with paperwork that does not move, for whatever reasons!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)
In a secret effort, the National Security Agency appears to be vacuuming up large swathes of the Internet
Among the snooping revelations of recent weeks, there have been tantalizing bits of evidence that the NSA is tapping fiber-optic cables that carry nearly all international phone and Internet data.
The idea that the NSA is sweeping up vast data streams via cables and other infrastructure — often described as the “backbone of the Internet” — is not new. In late 2005, the New York Times first described the tapping, which began after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. More details emerged in early 2006 when an AT&T whistleblower came forward.
But like other aspects of NSA surveillance, virtually everything about this kind of NSA surveillance is highly secret and we’re left with far from a full picture.
Is the NSA really sucking up everything?
It’s not clear.
The most detailed, though now dated, information on the topic comes from Mark Klein. He’s the former AT&T technician who went public in 2006 describing the installation in 2002-03 of a secret room in an AT&T building in San Francisco. The equipment, detailed in technical documents, allowed the NSA to conduct what Klein described as “vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the internet -- whether that be peoples' e-mail, web surfing or any other data.”
Klein said he was told there was similar equipment installed at AT&T facilities in San Diego, Seattle, and San Jose.
There is also evidence that the vacuuming has continued in some form right up to the present.
A draft NSA inspector’s general report from 2009, recently published by the Washington Post, refers to access via two companies “to large volumes of foreign-to-foreign communications transiting the United States through fiberoptic cables, gateway switches, and data networks.”
A recently published NSA slide, dated April 2013, refers to so-called “Upstream” “collection” of “communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past.”
These cables carry vast quantities of information, including 99 percent of international phone and Internet data, according to research firm TeleGeography.
This upstream surveillance is in contrast to another method of NSA snooping, Prism, in which the NSA isn’t tapping anything. Instead, the agency gets users’ data with the cooperation of tech companies like Facebook and Google.
Other documents leaked by Edward Snowden to the Guardian provide much more detail about the upstream surveillance by the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the NSA’s U.K. counterpart.
GCHQ taps cables where they land in the United Kingdom carrying Internet and, phone data. According to the Guardian, unnamed companies serve as “intercept partners” in the effort.
The NSA is listening in on those taps too. By May 2012, 250 NSA analysts along with 300 GCHQ analysts were sifting through the data from the British taps.
Is purely domestic communication being swept up in the NSA’s upstream surveillance?
It’s not at all clear.
Going back to the revelations of former AT&T technician Mark Klein — which, again, date back a decade — a detailed expert analysis concluded that the secret NSA equipment installed at an AT&T building was capable of collecting information “not only for communications to overseas locations, but for purely domestic communications as well."
On the other hand, the 2009 NSA inspector general report refers specifically to collecting “foreign-to-foreign communications” that are “transiting the United States through fiber-optic cables, gateway switches, and data networks”
But even if the NSA is tapping only international fiber optic cables, it could still pick up communications between Americans in the U.S.
That’s because data flowing over the Internet does not always take the most efficient geographic route to its destination.
Instead, says Tim Stronge of the telecom consulting firm TeleGeography, data takes “the least congested route that is available to their providers.”
“If you’re sending an email from New York to Washington, it could go over international links,” Stronge says, “but it’s pretty unlikely.”
That’s because the United States has a robust domestic network. (That’s not true for some other areas of the world, which can have their in-country Internet traffic routed through another country's more robust network.)
But there are other scenarios under which Americans’ purely domestic communication might pass over the international cables. Google, for example, maintains a network of data centers around the world.
Google spokeswoman Nadja Blagojevic told ProPublica that, “Rather than storing each user's data on a single machine or set of machines, we distribute all data — including our own — across many computers in different locations.”
We asked Blagojevic whether Google stores copies of Americans’ data abroad, for example users’ Gmail accounts. She declined to answer.
Are companies still cooperating with the NSA’s Internet tapping?
We don’t know.
The Washington Post had a story earlier this month about agreements the government has struck with telecoms, but lots of details are still unclear, including what the government is getting, and how many companies are cooperating.
The Post pointed to a 2003 “Network Security Agreement” between the U.S. government and the fiber optic network operator Global Crossing, which at the time was being sold to a foreign firm.
That agreement, which the Post says became a model for similar deals with other companies, did not authorize surveillance. Rather, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources, it ensured “that when U.S. government agencies seek access to the massive amounts of data flowing through their networks, the companies have systems in place to provide it securely.”
Level 3 released a statement in response to the Post story saying that neither agreement requires Level 3 “to cooperate in unauthorized surveillance on U.S. or foreign soil.”
The agreement does, however, explicitly require the company to cooperate with “lawful” surveillance.
More evidence, though somewhat dated, of corporate cooperation with NSA upstream surveillance comes from the 2009 inspector general report.
“Two of the most productive [signals intelligence] collection partnerships that NSA has with the private sector are with COMPANY A and COMPANY B,” the report says. “These two relationships enable NSA to access large volumes of foreign-to-foreign communications transiting the United States through fiber-optic cables, gateway switches, and data networks.”
There’s circumstantial evidence that those companies may be AT&T and Verizon.
It’s also worth noting that the NSA might not need corporate cooperation in all cases. In 2005, the AP reported on the outfitting of the submarine Jimmy Carter to place taps on undersea fiber-optic cables in case “stations that receive and transmit the communications along the lines are on foreign soil or otherwise inaccessible.”
What legal authority is the NSA using for upstream surveillance?
It’s unclear, though it may be a 2008 law that expanded the government’s surveillance powers.
The only evidence that speaks directly to this issue is the leaked slide on upstream surveillance, and in particular the document’s heading: “FAA702 Operations.” That’s a reference to Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act. That legislation amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1970s law that governs government surveillance in the United States.
Under Section 702, the attorney general and director of national intelligence issue one-year blanket authorizations to for surveillance of non-citizens who are “reasonably believed” to be outside the U.S. These authorizations don’t have to name individuals, but rather allow for targeting of broad categories of people.
The government has so-called minimization procedures that are supposed to limit the surveillance of American citizens or people in the U.S. Those procedures are subject to review by the FISA court.
Despite the procedures, there is evidence that in practice American communications are swept up by surveillance under this section.
In the case of Prism, for example, which is authorized under the same part of the law, the Washington Post reported that the NSA uses a standard of “51 percent confidence” in a target’s foreignness.
And according to minimization procedures dating from 2009 published by the Guardian, there are also exceptions when it comes to holding on to American communications. For example, encrypted communications — which, given the routine use of digital encryption, might include vast amounts of material — can be kept indefinitely.
The government also has the authority to order communications companies to assist in the surveillance, and to do so in secret.
How much Internet traffic is the NSA storing?
We don’t know, but experts speculate it’s a lot.
“I think that there’s evidence that they’re starting to move toward a model where they just store everything,” says Dan Auerbach, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The Utah data center is a big indicator of this because the sheer storage capacity has just rocketed up.”
We know more details about how the GCHQ operates in Britain, again thanks to the Guardian’s reporting. A breakthrough in 2011 allowed GCHQ to store metadata from its cable taps for 30 days and content for three days. The paper reported on how the spy agency — with some input from the NSA — then filters what it’s getting:
The processing centres apply a series of sophisticated computer programmes in order to filter the material through what is known as MVR – massive volume reduction. The first filter immediately rejects high-volume, low-value traffic, such as peer-to-peer downloads, which reduces the volume by about 30%. Others pull out packets of information relating to "selectors" – search terms including subjects, phone numbers and email addresses of interest. Some 40,000 of these were chosen by GCHQ and 31,000 by the NSA.
How does the NSA do filtering of the data it gets off cables in the United States?
“I think that’s the trillion dollar question that I’m sure the NSA is working really hard at all the time,” Auerbach, the EFF expert. “I think it’s an incredibly difficult problem.”