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National Security Archive Files a FOIA Request to Find Out Why the CIA is Attempting to Price Out Declassification Reviews

February 21, 2012

"Problem: We are being subjected to too much accountability for our actions."

On September 23, 2011 the CIA launched a covert attack on Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) by entering new regulation changes into the Federal Register, which gouge requesters with outrageous fees for submitting MDR requests.

While the CIA no doubt wanted to avoid the publicity the Department of Justice received after their ill-conceived FOIA regulations, the draconian regs are garnering attention. The most ludicrous and unprecedented of the fee changes would charge requesters up to $72 per hour for searches, even if no documents are located, and $15 minimum for duplication fees.

It’s hard to imagine that these fee hikes are anything other than an attempt to dissuade people from filing MDRs, which is an effective and increasingly popular tool that takes the declassification process out of the CIA’s overly-secretive hands. At the end of the MDR process, ISCAP – the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel based at the National Archives – independently decides if documents must remain classified to protect U.S. National Security. In doing so, ISCAP reverses agency denials more than 65% of the time.

So who came up with this anti-openness regulation? And how did they explain it as a good idea – especially during Obama’s “new era of open government?” To follow the paper trail and disclose the CIA’s internal justifications for these astronomical price increases, today the National Security Archive filed a FOIA request with the CIA for all “emails, memos, position papers, or power point presentations” about the CIA’s decision to change its MDR regulations.

The Archive's FOIA request to the CIA to try to uncover the internal justifications for their absorbidant MDR fee increases.

The regulation changes are disincentives for filing MDRs, obstruct open government policies, and should be struck from the record. Hopefully the FOIA request submitted today will shed light on just how the CIA is able to make such horrible, counter-productive transparency decisions.

If you are as concerned as we are with the CIA’s war against MDR, please sign OpenTheGovernment.org’s petition to restore a modicum of accountability to the CIA’s secrecy system.

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