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National Security Counselors Sues the CIA over its FOIA Practices

February 28, 2011

A typically-redacted CIA document.

National Security Counselors –an Arlington, Virginia-based public interest group– has filed three FOIA-related lawsuits against the CIA.  Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors accused the CIA of being a primary perpetrator of “extreme institutional violations of both the letter and spirit of of FOIA.”  National Security Counselors seeks “declaratory and injunctive relief from the court that will find these practices themselves to be unlawful and forbid their future use.”

The CIA’s routine violations of the letter and spirit of FOIA include:

  • Considering comments made by CIA FOIA analysts as blanketly exempt, regardless of the content.
  • Considering all training materials, guidelines, reference materials, etc., provided to FOIA analysts to be blanketly exempt, regardless of the content.
  • Invoking the Glomar response about FOIA requests referred by other agencies, even when these requests are marked UNCLASSIFIED.
  • Refusing to provide requesters with estimated dates of completion for their requests, as stipulated by law.
  • Refusing to provide requesters with information regarding records that the Agency has withheld in full, thereby leaving requesters unable to intelligently appeal the withholding decisions.
  • Refusing to specify which exemptions the agency applies to its redactions, often invoking the conjunction “and/or,” which hampers the requester’s ability to intelligently appeal.
  • Refusing to accept requests for aggregate data.
  • Using an overbroad interpretation of what constitutes a “reasonable description of the records sought.”
  • Canceling FOIA requests the Agency determines to be inadequate without ever contacting requesters.
  • And refusing to recognize legal assignments of rights in FOIA requests from one party to another.

We wish National Security Counselors the best of luck with their lawsuit! It’s high time for the CIA to be forced to stop openly flouting the Freedom of Information Act.

Here is National Security Counselors website.

And here is a press release about the lawsuits.

Contact Kel McClanahan for further information.

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