CIA Unlawfully Withholds Documents
A federal lawsuit has charged the CIA with refusing to comply with requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), contending that the agency has repeatedly cited an exemption it does not have the authority to use.
Over the years, government watchdogs have requested records relating to the CIA’s treatment of detainees and policies related to the “war on terror,” but the CIA withheld many of these documents by invoking a (b)(3) exemption. One of seven FOIA exemptions, the (b)(3) exemption allows an agency’s director to refuse disclosure of documents to protect “intelligence sources and methods.”
When Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act back in 2004, the authority of protecting intelligence sources and methods shifted from the Director of the CIA to the newly created Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). In other words, the ODNI (not the CIA) is in charge of invoking the (b)(3) exemption and has been for eight years. Interestingly, it appears that the CIA has only once received authorization from the ODNI to cite (b)(3), indicating that many uses of this exemption were purely illegitimate.
Such disregard for the law is not a first for the CIA. In spite of a well-established law that prohibits the agency from spying here in the US, the CIA trained the New York Police Department to carry out targeted surveillance of Muslims. An internal “review” later found no violation of law.
Kel McClanahan, executive director of the law firm filing the suit, suggests that the CIA’s actions follow a pattern of defiance:
As important as protecting intelligence sources and methods is, you’d think that someone would have wanted to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s to make sure that they stayed protected after the authority to do so changed hands. Or perhaps the CIA just decided to keep on doing what it had always done, expecting that nobody would notice the difference and call them out on it.
It appears that the deeper we delve into the CIA’s actions, the more questions we find. But somehow the CIA keeps finding a way to cover up its tracks.