Trivia

Hard

The Government Spokesman “I Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny …” Statement Is Known As The?

Executive Branch Shuffle
CIA Shutdown
Pentagon Peel
Glomar Response
The USNS Glomar Explorer mothballed in Susiun Bay, California (June 1993).
United States Geological Survey (USGS)/Wikimedia

Answer: Glomar Response

In the early 1970s, the Central Intelligence Agency commissioned the construction of the USNS Hughes Glomar Explorer—seen here—a large salvage vessel, which had the express and clandestine purpose of recovering the remains of a Soviet submarine. While the official cover story for the vessel was that it was a commercial vessel engaged in undersea mining, the reality was that it was tasked with retrieving a sunken 2,700 long ton (2,743 tonne) when submerged, 330 foot (100 meter) long, Golf-II class ballistic missile submarine (K-129, hull number 722) from the Soviet Pacific Fleet, 1,560 miles (2,890 kilometers) northwest of Oahu, Hawaii and resting 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) beneath the surface on the sea floor. The endeavor, called Project Azorian, was able to recover part of the submarine.

In 1975, the CIA caught wind of a story brewing at the Los Angeles Times and attempted to stop the publication of the article. Journalist Harriet Ann Phillippi put in a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the project. The CIA counsel responded to the request with the statement: “We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the information requested but, hypothetically, if such data were to exist, the subject matter would be classified, and could not be disclosed.”

Since then, the general intent of the statement “We can neither confirm nor deny…” has been frequently used by government spokespeople and is now known as the “Glomar response” in reference to the investigative case in which it was first used. The Glomar response even made a tongue-in-cheek appearance in 2014 when the CIA opened their official Twitter account by tweeting “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”

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