Polygraph Researcher May Yet Access Filings

     (CN) - The CIA must further explain why it tried to keep a doctoral student from accessing certain documents about its use of polygraph tests, a federal judge ruled.
     For her dissertation about polygraph examinations, Katelyn Sack made multiple requests under the Freedom of Information Act in 2010 and 2011 for information on polygraph and related interrogation techniques employed by the CIA, the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice.
     Dissatisfied with the agencies' responses, Sack filed suit in 2012.
     A 2013 stipulation dispatched several of Sack's challenges and acknowledged the adequacy of the searches performed in regard to those counts. The agencies then moved from summary judgment of the remaining the remaining counts.
     U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan generally endorsed the agencies' withholdings or redactions Thursday, finding that Sack's overly broad and poorly defined request was "unduly burdensome" on the government, but shot down the CIA's attempt to exempt certain documents under Section 6 of the Central Intelligence Act of 1949.
     Section 6 empowers the director of National Intelligence to protect intelligence sources and the agency's methods from unauthorized disclosure.
     It exempts the agency from "the provisions of any other law which require[s] the publication or disclosure of the organization, functions, names, official titles, salaries, or numbers of personnel employed by the agency."
     Sack conceded Section 6 protects information about CIA employees, such as their names and specific job functions, but challenged its application to other materials.
     Judge Sullivan noted that two of his colleagues 'recently rejected identical arguments made by the CIA" for a broad interpretation.
     "There is also a long history of decisions from the D.C. Circuit limiting the scope of Section 6," the decision continues.
     Circuit precedent holds "that Section 6 'does not "allow[] the [CIA] to refuse to provide any information at all about anything it does,"' and it makes "clear that Section 6 'applies only to "information about [the CIA's] internal structure,"' Sullivan wrote.
     "The CIA repeatedly seizes on the use of the phrase 'internal structure' as support for interpreting the term to cover anything related to the organization or function of the CIA," he continued. "The D.C. Circuit, however, has made clear that information related to the agency's structure is protected only to the extent it relates to 'information concerning the agency's personnel.'"
     Sack shot down the agency's attempt to liken exemption-worthy personnel information with "information about the functions and organizations of the CIA necessarily."
     "Were there no distinction between the function and organization of agency personnel and the function and organization of the agency, however, Section 6 would 'encompass any kind of activity appropriately carried out by the CIA,'" Sullivan said.
     "Accordingly, Section 6's protection applies only when the withheld information relates to 'the CIA's personnel and internal structure, such as the names of personnel, the titles and salaries of personnel, or how personnel are organized within the CIA,'" he continued.
     It is thus not clear whether the CIA's withholdings were proper, the court found.
     "To obtain summary judgment, the CIA must provide a clearer description of the withheld information," Sack wrote. "Moreover, to the extent that withheld information relates to 'internal CIA organizational data, including file paths,' 'internal document processing methods.' And 'the organization of and capabilities related to the CIA's decentralized information management systems,' ... the Agency must provide a more detailed description to justify withholding that information as related to the organization and functions of agency personnel."
     Sack meanwhile failed to revive her challenge of the FOIA response given by the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel.