from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 13
February 3, 2005


A federal court yesterday rejected a move by the Central Intelligence Agency to block a Freedom of Information Act request from the ACLU for CIA records concerning the treatment of detainees held in U.S. custody or "rendered" abroad to countries known to employ torture.

The court said the CIA claim that such records were "operational files" that are exempt from search and review under the Freedom of Information Act is unsustainable.

"I hold that defendant CIA has failed to satisfy the statutory prerequisites for invoking the operational files exemption, and hence may not avoid the requirements imposed by FOIA," wrote Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York in a February 2 ruling:

CIA's now-rejected argument in favor of exemption is presented here:

It would be hard to overstate the contribution made by the ACLU to overcoming government recalcitrance on the subject of torture. Through its Freedom of Information Act litigation, the organization has energetically helped to fill some of the void left by a slack, nearly dormant system of congressional oversight.

"Somewhere in the upper reaches of this Administration, a process was set in motion that rolled forward until it produced scandalous results," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) yesterday, referring to the shifting government policy on torture.

"We may never know the full story, because the Administration has circled the wagons and stonewalled on requests for information. What little we know we owe to leaks, to the initiative of the press, to international human rights organizations, and to a few internal Defense Department investigations, and to Freedom of Information Act litigation," Leahy said.


CIA resistance to disclosure is not limited to documents on torture, or Nazi war crimes, or any other topical area, nor is it specifically focused on protecting intelligence sources and methods. Secrecy is the unexamined rule at CIA, not the exception, which is why the Agency routinely finds itself committed to rationally indefensible claims that various sets of records cannot be publicly released.

Such is the case, after all these years, with respect to at least one aspect of the assassination of President Kennedy.

After an extended dispute, the CIA continues to withhold records on the late George E. Joannides, a CIA employee in the Miami station at the time of the JFK assassination. It is now known that he handled anti-Castro psychological operations, including one involving Lee Harvey Oswald. Some 150 heavily redacted pages on Joannides were released by CIA in December.

For related background, see this 2003 letter in the New York Review of Books:

Having previously denied the fact, "The CIA now admits that it has records about George Joannides's operational actions in late 1963 when the Cuban students under his guidance were gathering and publicizing information about Oswald," said Jefferson Morley, the researcher (and Washington Post writer) who has pursued the Joannides files through the Freedom of Information Act.

"The CIA will not say how many such records it has. Even more remarkably, the CIA says that it will not release these assassination-related documents in any form."

"Some friends say they expect there is a relatively innocent explanation for the actions of Joannides and the CIA; others have a more sinister interpretation. All agree that the CIA should obey the law, in this case the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Act, which mandates 'immediate' disclosure of all relevant JFK documents. Yet the CIA still stonewalls in federal court 41 years after the fact," Mr. Morley wrote in an email.


The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence held its first open hearing of the year on February 2 on the topic "Global Threats to U.S. Interests in the 21st Century."

The non-governmental witnesses represented a spectrum of opinion ranging from the American Enterprise Institute to the Rand Corporation. The witnesses' prepared statements are available here:


The scope and progress of Iranian research into laser isotope separation -- a technology that would be useful for uranium enrichment -- are traced in a new bibliography of published scientific literature on related subjects by Iranian scientists.

The bibliography is the latest in a series of such compilations of produced by independent researcher Mark Gorwitz. One hopes and presumes that something similar or better is generated somewhere in the U.S. intelligence community. But who knows?

See "Iranian Laser Isotope Separation-Related Research" by Mark Gorwitz here:


The embarrassing revelation that several conservative commentators were on the payroll of government agencies has focused attention on the statutory restrictions that limit agency public relations and propaganda activities.

The Congressional Research Service, which cannot be accused of propagandizing the public since it will not permit direct public access to its products, issued a review of the subject yesterday.

See "Public Relations and Propaganda: Restrictions on Executive Agency Activities," February 2, 2005:

Also yesterday, several Democratic Senators introduced what they call the "Stop Government Propaganda Act" (S. 266). See:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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