WASHINGTON (CN) – The CIA failed to conduct a reasonable search under the Freedom of Information Act for information on its Mandatory Declassification Review programs, a federal judge ruled.
National Security Counselors (NSC), a nonprofit that disseminates information on government activity related to national security, sued the CIA last year when it failed to respond to the organization’s two FOIA requests for documents on the declassification program.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer last week denied the CIA’s motion for summary judgment, stating that “the CIA has failed to demonstrate that its search was adequate.”
Collyer found that a CIA information review officer determined that the Director of Central Intelligence Area “Director’s Area” was reasonably likely to contain responsive materials to the first request, which produced one document regarding a regulation on mandatory declassification review. The document was released in full.
The second request, for “special procedures for the [Mandatory Declassification] review of information pertaining to intelligence activities … or intelligence sources or methods’ developed by the Director of Central Intelligence” pursuant to two executive orders, turned up no documents.
NSC appealed the CIA’s findings, but that appeal was denied by a release panel.
“An agency is not permitted to deny requesters information by narrowing the scope of its search to exclude relevant information,” Collyer wrote.
She ruled that “the CIA cannot reasonably claim that it did not believe NSC sought materials in connection with Executive Order 12,958 (to the extent those materials were still current) when the single responsive document produced by CIA was based on Executive Order 12,958.”
The judge dismissed the CIA’s motion for summary judgment.