FREEDOM OF INFORMATION 
ACT REQUEST ­ FOIA 

To: Office of General Counsel
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20554

April 22, 2015

VIA FAX AND ELECTRONIC MAIL

Re: Request for review and complete fulfillment of records, FOIA 2014-669

To the Office of General Counsel, F.C.C.,
On Thursday, October 23, 2014, the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) intake office at the
Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) reached out to inform me that the Harris
Corporation of Melbourne, Florida (“Harris”) had transmitted a letter to your office regarding
a FOIA request made by yours truly on September 24, 2014 (FOIA 2014-669, “the FOIA
request”). This letter serves as a response to the correspondence submitted to your office by
Harris. It is my intent to make supporting arguments as to why the withheld material sought
in the FOIA request should be released pursuant to federal law.
Background: The FOIA Request
On September 24, 2014, I filed a FOIA request with the FCC seeking "a copy of any and all
user manuals for the following items manufactured by (Harris): Device bearing F.C.C. ID
NK73092523...device bearing F.C.C. ID NK73100179...device bearing F.C.C. ID
NK73166210…” (collectively referred to here as “the equipment” or “the devices”)1.
On October 10, 2014, David Duarte with the F.C.C. contacted me by electronic mail (“e-mail”)
to inform me that the agency had received and was processing my request. Mr. Duarte
informed me that Harris had been contacted regarding my request, and that the agency
expected to hear back from them by October 22, 2014. Mr. Duarte said that after Harris had
returned their inquiry regarding the request, I would be given an opportunity to respond. Mr.
Duarte included two letters attached to the e-mail; both were reviewed by me and appeared to
be whole.

1

 A collection of the documents related to FOIA 2014­669 can be found at the following address: 
https://www.scribd.com/collections/13825217/FCC­FOIA­2014­669­The­StingRay­Documents 
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On October 20, 2014, Harris delivered a letter to the F.C.C.2 in which they expressed concern
about the disclosure of material pursuant to my FOIA request. Harris noted in its letter that
the material sought under this request had been offered to the FCC under condition of
confidentiality because, as Harris alleges, public disclosure of the documents could
“reasonably put public safety officials at risk, jeopardize the integrity and value of
investigative techniques and procedures, reveal Harris trade secrets due to the nature of the
equipment, and harm Harris’ competitive interests.”
In response to Harris’ request for continued confidentiality, a follow-up letter was sent by me
to the F.C.C. on October 25, 2014 in which I asserted many of Harris’ arguments in their
request for confidentiality were unjustified. Specifically, I noted that the documents requested
did “not describe a ‘law enforcement technique or procedure,’” that disclosure “could not
‘reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual,’” were “not
‘trade secrets’ as designated under the law,” and that I did “not need to state a reason for
inspection of records under the FOIA law,” challenging every point made by Harris in their
request for confidentiality.
To my knowledge, Harris did not respond to my October 25, 2014 letter.
On March 23, 2015, the F.C.C. produced “a copy of the single user manual that is associated
with each of the devices” I had requested under FOIA3. In its letter accompanying the
documents, the F.C.C. informed me that certain redactions had been made pursuant to
Exemption 4 of the FOIA (5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4)) because certain information was “protected as
trade secrets because they encompass a ‘secret, commercially valuable...process or device that
is used for the making...of trade commodities and [that] can be said to be the end product of
either innovation or substantial effort.” The F.C.C. cited the circuit court case Public Citizen
Health Research Group v. FDA (1983) in its assertion that the withheld information was
protected as a “trade secret.”
Indeed, the documents supplied by the F.C.C. contained an overwhelming number of
redactions – including text, charts, photographs and drawings that the F.C.C. asserts “describe
the devices and their method of use.” The F.C.C. said the redactions were appropriate because
the information “could reveal proprietary information about Harris’ technology,
manufacturing process and business strategy, and thus provide unwarranted insight into the
specifics of Harris’ products or its underlying technology.”
It is the contention of this requester that the F.C.C. improperly and wrongly withheld certain
information under FOIA Exemption 4, including information that does not qualify under the
law as a “trade secret,” information that the agency withheld in parts of the document yet left
2
3

 https://www.scribd.com/doc/259988405/ 
 https://www.scribd.com/doc/259987684/ 
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visible in others, and information that has been publicly released before by the agency, the
company and through other means.
The documents sought are not “trade secrets” as designated under the law
Harris and the F.C.C. asserted information in the material originally sought contained “trade
secrets” protected under various statutes including FOIA Exemption 4. In its October 2014
letter to the F.C.C., Harris argued that the records sought contained “proprietary information,
including trade secrets and manufacturing processes that would compromise our competitive
advantage if such information were made public.”
The Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”) defines a “trade secret” as “information, including a
formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process, that derives
independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to or readily
ascertainable through appropriate means by other persons who might obtain economic value
from its disclosure or use; and is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the
circumstances to maintain its secrecy.”4 More than 40 states and the District of Columbia have
adopted the UTSA, including Florida, where Harris is based.
In order to qualify as a “trade secret,” Harris must have proved that the records sought:
● contain information related to the manufacturing of the device (“a formula, pattern,
compilation, program, device, method, or process”), AND
● that the information sought provides Harris with independent economic value because
it is not easily accessible to the public, AND
● that the information sought is the subject of reasonable efforts to maintain secrecy.
With respect to this requester and others, Harris has made many reasonable efforts to
maintain the secrecy of the documents that were sought. Harris has, among other things,
required the signing of a non-disclosure agreement between itself and local and state law
enforcement agencies before acquiring certain devices. Harris also requested the F.C.C. treat
certain documents as proprietary and confidential (something that the agency initially agreed
to, then chose not to honor when it delivered the redacted documents in March).
In this case, in order to qualify as a “trade secret,” Harris must satisfy ALL, not part, of the
definition as set in the UTSA.
Harris asserted the “owner’s manuals” were “trade secrets” because they contain
“manufacturing processes that would compromise (their) competitive advantage.” Likewise,
the F.C.C. argued that the material sought “encompass(ed) a ‘secret, commercially
4

 https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/trade_secret 
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valuable...process or device that is used for the making of trade commodities.’” In my October
2014 response to Harris’ request for continued confidentiality, I noted that “the F.C.C., in its
discretion and pursuant to applicable law, is free to examine and withhold any portion of any
document t​
hat deals exclusively with the manufacturing of any Harris device​
” pursuant to
FOIA Exemption 4 and the UTSA (emphasis added).
Despite the redactions, based on the documents provided by the F.C.C., it is clear that the
material originally sought contains no information about the manufacturing process, nor does
it contain any information about a “device that is used for the making of trade commodities.”
Instead, the material is clearly an instructional manual for the operation of a device.
Additionally, the F.C.C. cited the circuit court case Public Citizen Health Research Group v.
FDA in support of its decision to withhold information under FOIA Exemption 4. In this case,
the court found that documents could be withheld under the trade secret exemption if there
was “ a direct relationship between the information at issue and the productive process.”
Here, the court narrowly applied the definition of a “trade secret” to apply to the
production/manufacturing process; as already stated, the documents obtained contains no
information about the production or manufacturing process.
For the reasons stated, the F.C.C. erred when it withheld information under Exemption 4 of
the FOIA. Additionally...
The FCC withheld certain information that is or was already publicly
accessible
Information related to F.C.C. ID NK73186795 was improperly withheld
In the documents provided to the requester in March 2015, the F.C.C. redacted information
related to F.C.C. ID NK741867955 . This F.C.C. ID was one of four cited by the Harris in its
ongoing application for confidentiality in 2010, as described in e-mail correspondence
between Harris staff and the agency as published by the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU) in September 20146 . These e-mails were obtained by the ACLU through a separate
FOIA request.
The e-mails indicate that the single user manual given to the F.C.C. by Harris in 2010
contained information about the three devices requested by F.C.C. ID in my original FOIA as
well as the fourth device that was not specifically mentioned in my original FOIA request.
Though information related to the fourth F.C.C. ID was not specifically requested by me, the

5
6

 http://fccid.net/number.php?fcc=NK73186795&id=674946#axzz3Y3a9WThh 
 https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/fcc_foia_harris_emails.pdf 
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F.C.C. has provided — and cannot provide — any justification for withholding the F.C.C. ID or
associated information of the fourth device in the documents provided.
The name of associated systems, products, hardware and contact information
and other details were improperly withheld
Among other things, the F.C.C. redacted the telephone and fax numbers of the Harris
Corporation, the name of the product at the center of the manual, the word “antenna” in
numerous places, the words “cable” or “cables” in numerous places, all information related to
the device bearing the fourth F.C.C. ID mentioned earlier and the letters “A,” “C” and “P” in
the appendix. The F.C.C. blankets these redactions as withheld under FOIA Exemption 4.
First, the telephone and fax numbers of Harris Corporation are made freely available by the
Harris Corporation through various means, including on its own website and marketing
material. There was no good reason for the F.C.C. to withhold this under Exemption 4.
Second, the associated devices as the heart of the manual sought were related to a cellular
phone interception unit, which is, at its core, a radio transmission or reception device. It is
common knowledge that radios in all forms require both cables and antennas to transmit
and/or receive information. Again, there was no good reason for the F.C.C. to withhold this
under Exemption 4.
Third, the letters “A,” “C” and “P” are not “trade secrets” by any stretch of the imagination.
They are common letters of the alphabet. It is beyond mind-boggling that the F.C.C. would
argue common letters of the alphabet qualify as “trade secrets” under Exemption 4. They do
not.
Fourth, many Harris product names associated with the company’s line of cellular
interception devices have already been publicly released by this agency and others. Notably,
product names associated with StingRay, KingFish, Amberjack, Harpoon, RayFish and
StingFish have been disclosed.7 8 9
Certain information withheld in parts of the document was not withheld in
other places
On page 55 of the document, the FCC left complete a phrase that reads “Its use shall comply
with all local, state and Federal statutes and regulations associated with the monitoring of
cellular transmissions.” The same phrase appears on pages 3 and 11 of the document, except
7

 https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/field_document/fcc_foia_harris_emails.pdf 
 http://arstechnica.com/tech­policy/2013/09/meet­the­machines­that­steal­your­phones­data/ 
9
 http://www.trademarkia.com/rayfish­77435339.html 
8

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that the F.C.C. redacted the words “the monitoring of cellular transmissions” on page 11 and
“monitoring of cellular transmissions” on page 3. These arbitrary inconsistent redactions
proves the agency withheld information it, for whatever reason, did not want to become
public, and incorrectly blanketed that decision to withhold under FOIA Exemption 4 when it
did not apply.

Conclusion
The F.C.C.’s obligation under FOIA has not been fulfilled for the reasons outlined above. I ask
for the immediate fulfillment of complete records associated with the original request made
on September 22, 2014.

Regards,
__________​
/s/​
__________

Matthew Keys
Independent Journalist
The Desk​
&T
​he Blot Magazine

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