WASHINGTON (CN) – Noting that there are a lot of things the CIA still does, even though those things break the law, a freelance reporter has gone to court for a look at government records showing how the agency uses poison in assassinations.
In refusing to even process his records request, Jens Porup claims in his Jan. 12 federal complaint that “the CIA is effectively taking the position that it can refuse to comply with FOIA by simply stating, in effect, ‘trust us, we do not do that.’”
“This court should not permit the CIA to so blithely disregard FOIA,” Porup continued, abbreviating Freedom of Information Act.
Porup, a freelance reporter who specializes in national security and cybersecurity, filed his FOIA request with the agency on May 1, 2015, asking for “any [and] all documents relating to CIA use of poison for covert assassination.”
The CIA’s response on May 21, 2015, simply cited an executive order that prohibits it from assassinating foreign leaders.
Porup filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after his administrative appeal sputtered and a second request met the same fate.
Calling the agency’s response “ridiculous,” Porup notes years’ worth of material that show the CIA cannot be trusted.
“History has shown us … that simply because the law has told the CIA it cannot do something does not mean it has not done it anyway,” the complaint states.
Indeed it is documented, Porup notes, that nothing prohibited the CIA from engaging in the assassination of foreign leaders before then-President Gerald Ford issued Executive Order 11905.
Ford’s order came about in the aftermath of the Church Committee, which as Porup explains “investigated allegations of U.S. involvement in the assassinations of various foreign leaders, including Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, General Rene Schneider of Chile, and Fidel Castro of Cuba.”
“The Church Committee concluded that the plots against Patrice Lumumba and Fidel Castro were conceived by the U.S. government,” the complaint states. “Although the Church Committee did not find definitive evidence tying the CIA (or the U.S. Government as a whole) to the two other assassination attempts, it did state that the ‘system of executive command and control was so ambiguous that it is difficult to be certain at what levels assassination activity was known and authorized.’”
President Ronald Reagan reaffirmed Ford’s ban by replacing Executive Order 11905 with Executive Order 12333, which is what the CIA directed Porup to consult.
Telling the CIA he knows where it can file that order, Porup brings up other activities that the CIA has conducted “in defiance of their statutory charter and the Constitution.”
These activities include, according to the complaint, “(a) domestic intelligence operations against American citizens, including files maintained on at least 10,000 Americans (and some Members of Congress); (b) surreptitious inspection of mail; and (c) burglaries.”
Just in the last decade the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence published a bipartisan report on the CIA’s illegal torture program in the context of the Global War on Terror.
Porup notes that he also “has additional pending FOIA requests seeking, among other things, records memorializing data on the number of occasions each year in which CIA officials engage in rape in the course of their official duties.”
“It is reasonably likely that these requests will be impacted by the CIA’s pattern or practice of refusing to process requests regarding conduct in which it claims it does not and cannot engage,” the complaint continues.
Porup seeks an order forcing production of the records he requested, as well as a declaration that the response the agency gave to his request is unlawful.
The reporter is represented by attorney Brad Moss, who noted in an interview that they might not have sued at all if the agency simply said its search brought up no responsive records.
“It’s not just about this particular request, it’s the concern about how this particular practice will be applied writ large,” Moss said.
The CIA is the only named defendant in the case. A spokesman for the agency declined to comment.