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November 23, 1999

Judge Rules for CIA in Budget Lawsuit

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A science policy organization that filed suit seeking to force the Central Intelligence Agency to disclose the size of its 1999 budget said on Monday it was up to the president to reveal the figures after a federal judge dismissed the case.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan dismissed the lawsuit brought by the Federation of American Scientists on Nov. 12, but the parties to the case were only informed of the decision on Monday.

Hogan, in his ruling, said the CIA established that release of the budget request for fiscal 1999, which ended Sept. 30, "could reasonably be expected to result in harm to the national security and to reveal intelligence 'sources and methods."'

The administration previously had released the intelligence budgets for 1997 and 1998 -- $26.6 billion and $26.7 billion respectively. However, the intelligence budget for fiscal 1999 was classified, as was the budget for fiscal 2000. Fiscal 2000 began on Oct. 1 and the budget was just approved by Congress.

When the administration failed to release the fiscal 1999 intelligence budget, the Federation of American Scientists sought the information under the Freedom of Information Act and filed suit when the request was turned down. Hogan dismissed the case.

"The decision really puts back in the president's hand whether the (intelligence) budget numbers are going to be given to the public," said Kate Martin, attorney for the Federation of American Scientists.

"We haven't decided whether or not we're going to appeal," she said, but indicated the organization would file a Freedom of Information Act request asking the agency for the fiscal 2000 intelligence budget figures.

In a statement filed earlier in the case, CIA Director George Tenet said disclosure of the budget request could damage national security in several ways.

He said it would allow foreign governments to glean from year-to-year changes whether the United States saw its intelligence programs as adequate to meet national security needs.

"We're pleased that the court sustained our position," CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said.

In his ruling, Hogan said public disclosure of the total intelligence budget in prior years did not necessarily support disclosure of the budget amount for 1999, but rather indicated Tenet was justified in seeking a "case-by-case analysis of the impact of each disclosure."

Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists who filed the lawsuit said: "This is a setback, but by no means the end."

Copyright 1999 Reuters

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