Glomar Denial

Forensic Architecture

The Glomar response is a form of denial that aims to add no information to the public domain. Under its terms, US state agencies are authorized to “neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence” of documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Glomar response is justified on the basis that the very fact of the “existence or nonexistence” is itself information whose disclosure should be banned for “security reasons.” The term is derived from a ship named the Glomar Explorer built by the CIA and used to recover a sunken Soviet submarine in 1968. When the journalist Ann Phillippi filed a request under the FOIA for documents related to the Glomar Explorer, the CIA, in its attempts to censor Phillippi’s story, claimed that it could “neither confirm nor deny” that documents about either the ship or the censorship existed, and thus the Glomar response was born.

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