Much to the delight of government watchdogs and the media, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was ordered recently by a federal judge to stop avoiding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by claiming illegal exemptions to federal law.
In a case brought by the non-profit National Security Counselors, Judge Beryl A. Howell said the CIA had made “inappropriate” use of an exemption provided under the Central Intelligence Agency Act (pdf) to withhold information that was not subject to the exemption.
The ruling (pdf) focused on Section 403g of the act that allows the CIA to exempt from release information concerning
Howell ruled that CIA was interpreting this provision in a manner that was “inappropriately broad” by wrongly attempting to withhold virtually any “information that relates to” the CIA organization and personnel."
Steven Aftergood at Secrecy News said the ruling represented
Harry Hammitt of Access Reports, which monitors FOIA policy, told Aftergood that the ruling “really is something pretty remarkable,” because “Judge Howell has narrowed the interpretation of the statute dramatically.”
Appointed to the D.C. District Court by President Barack Obama in 2010, Howell in 2011, ordered the Obama administration to release White House visitor logs. In June 2013, she ruled that the 64-year ban on protests in front of the U.S. Supreme Court was unconstitution
Court Curbs CIA Use of a FOIA Exemption (by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News)
Opinion: National Security Counselors v. Central Intelligence Agency (Judge Beryl A. Howell, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia) (pdf)
National Security Increasingly Cited in Freedom of Information Act Denials; EPA Suspected of Selective Obstruction (by Danny Biederman and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
CIA Releases Documents…20 Years After Requested (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)