WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge said the State Department need not release information already published by WikiLeaks because the information is still covered by the national security exemption to the Freedom of Information Act.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation sued to force the State Department to release “embassy cables concerning this nation’s affairs” – information already released by third-party WikiLeaks – but U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly found that the government is justified in withholding the information.
“The twenty-three embassy cables cover a range of sensitive subjects, including investigations of individuals suspected of acts of terrorism, bilateral relations with foreign nations, and military operations,” Kollar-Kotelly ruled.
The government released 11 cables, partially or completely withholding the rest.
“In this case, the ACLU contends that the twenty-three embassy cables it seeks in this action must be disclosed because they are allegedly already in the public domain after being published by third-party WikiLeaks and because the State Department has purportedly acknowledged their authenticity,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote, summing up the ACLU’s argument.
“The ACLU couches this basic contention in a variety of forms but this much is clear: the ACLU has not met the exacting standard demanded by settled precedent. No matter how extensive, the WikiLeaks disclosure is no substitute for an official acknowledgement and the ACLU has not shown that the Executive has officially acknowledged that the specific information at issue was a part of the WikiLeaks disclosure.”
The information withheld concerned a variety of sensitive information, including details on military flight operations and procedures for obtaining allied cooperation in them, the judge found. It also contained assessments and recommendations relating to affairs with Afghanistan, Ireland, Libya, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and Yemen.