OGIS Publishes Ombuds Observer on NCND/Glomar

Photograph of Howard Hughes, who played a pivotal role in the very first Neither Confirm Nor Deny (NCND) response. National Archives Identifier 219777077.

OGIS has recently published a new resource for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesters whose records requests are met with ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) responses, historically known in the U.S. as Glomar responses. An agency may use this response for a FOIA request when even the existence (or non-existence) of records is protected from disclosure under a FOIA exemption, for example, classified information or personal privacy.

This new resource explains these situations, as well as outlining the history and legal underpinnings of the NCND response and gives requesters insight on possible ways to challenge such a response. The NCND Observer serves as a helpful tool for requesters who are navigating a response that various federal agencies use, notably agencies in the Intelligence Community.

We also offer this Observer as a resource for agencies that frequently issue NCND/Glomar responses to link to from their FOIA websites. In 2022, the FOIA Advisory Committee recommended that agencies post on their FOIA websites information for requests about NCND/Glomar responses. Posting a link to this Observer can assist agencies in fulfilling that recommendation. The Committee also recommended that federal departments and agencies use the internationally recognized NCND, rather than Glomar

We note that the Central Intelligence Agency’s FOIA website says that it will neither confirm nor deny the existence of records on 10 subjects, including specific confidential or covert relationships; names, official titles, and salaries of CIA personnel; and data relating to the CIA budget and/or expenditures.

For those who have encountered an NCND response, we hope this Ombuds Observer helps you understand the usage of NCND and options for responding.