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Lawsuit Takes Aim at CIA’s “Covert” Attack on Transparency

2012 February 27

by: Jason Leopold, Truthout | Report -

Last September, the CIA quietly changed its long-standing policy for how it would process certain records requests byimplementing a new fee structure that will essentially discourage the public from trying to get the agency to declassify secret government documents because the costs are too high, open-government advocates have charged.

The policy, which the CIA started to enforce last December, applies to Mandatory Declassification Reviews (MDR), a procedure under a section of an executive order signed by President Obama (which replaced a similar executive order signed by former President Bush), that allows the public to seek the declassification of specific CIA records and appeal unfavorable rulings to an independent panel.

Truthout filed several MDR’s last year to try and gain access to materials in custody of the CIA that were written by a high-value detainee and other classified documents pertaining to the Bush administration’s interrogation policies.

“Overnight, without public comment or notice, the [CIA] decreed that declassification reviews would now cost requesters up to $72 per hour, even if no information is found or released,” wrote Nate Jones of George Washington University’s National Security Archive, a historical research group that files numerous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and publishes declassified documents.

Previously, the CIA charged the public fees that were on par with general requests for agency records filed under FOIA. Jones, who first spotted the policy changes in the Federal Register, said the new regulations are “are a covert attack on the most effective tool, [MDR], that the public uses to declassify the CIA’s secret documents” and undercuts the transparency promises Barack Obama made after he was sworn in as president three years ago.

But a lawsuit filed last week against the agency in US District Court in Washington, DC, aims to remedy the issue by seeking to void the changes and declare it a willful violation of the law.  Read more…

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