CIA refuses to release drone documents

Despite ruling that agency can't ignore FOIAs on drone program, CIA files brief to keep documents secret

Published August 12, 2013 7:48PM (EDT)


As Salon noted in March, a D.C. federal appeals court sided with the ACLU in ruling that the CIA could no longer refuse to respond to FOIA requests about its drone programs on secrecy grounds, as the existence of the "targeted" killing program had already been publicly discussed by officials.

Despite this ruling, and a full three years since the ACLU originally filed a FOIA request for basic information on the CIA's drone program, the agency continues to push back on making information public.

The ACLU told Salon Monday that late last week the CIA filed a brief contending that the agency can't provide a list of documents (or even say how many there are) because doing so would disclose not just the agency's “interest” in the targeted killing program, but whether the CIA actually carries out targeted killings.

The Aug. 9 filing notes that "the CIA has now acknowledged that it has a general intelligence interest in this topic and possesses records responsive to the ACLU request. However, the CIA has determined that it cannot provide additional information about its responsive records without revealing classified material or statutorily-protected information related to intelligence activities, sources and methods and/or Agency functions."

The ACLU has responded to the brief with a strong statement, highlighting once again the hypocrisy of the Obama administration's promises of transparency all the while operating shadow wars around the world about which the public is offered little to no information:

ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer commented on the CIA's latest push for opacity:

This is a remarkable brief, not least because it was filed on the same day that President Obama emphasized his commitment to transparency around counterterrorism policy. Three years after we filed our FOIA request for basic records about the targeted killing program, and even after the D.C. Circuit issued a unanimous decision holding that the CIA's claim of categorical secrecy was illegitimate, the CIA has yet even to identify any documents responsive to our request, let alone describe them, enumerate them, or explain why they're being withheld.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aclu Cia Drone Programs Drones Foia Secrecy Shadow Wars