Supressed News

Saturday, July 29, 2006

CIA Claims the Right to Decide What is News

Archive Sues to Break FOIA
Fee Barrier for Journalists

For more information contact:
Meredith Fuchs/Thomas Blanton - 202/994-7000
Patrick J. Carome, 202-663-6000

"The CIA takes the position that it should decide what is 'news' instead of the reporters and editors who research and publish the stories," explained attorney Patrick J. Carome of the law firm
Wilmer Hale, who is representing the Archive. "If the CIA succeeds in exercising broad discretion to charge additional fees to journalists, despite the plain language of the law, then too often we will find out only what the government wants us to know."


"Suddenly, in October 2005, the CIA changed its practice and began to require the Archive to meet a new test for what information qualifies as "news." The CIA demanded that the Archive show that its requests for records meet several criteria that are not found in the FOIA itself, specifically, that the requests "concern current events," "interest the general public," and "enhance the public understanding of the operations and activities of the U.S. government." Among the requests that the CIA determined did not concern "current events" were two requests for biographical documents relating to members of the Taliban in Afghanistan and documents regarding the development of U.S. policy in Afghanistan in the five months before President Carter authorized U.S. aid to the Mujahadeen opposition to the Soviet-backed Afghan regime. The CIA rejected the notion that information about U.S. knowledge regarding the Taliban and the rise of Muslim fundamentalism in Afghanistan could result in "news." And although the CIA determined that FOIA requests about NAFTA and illegal Mexican immigration could result in "news," it rejected the idea that President Clinton's 1993 meetings with President Salinas on the subject could result in "news."

"This policy is a clear attempt to prevent journalists from getting information out to the public," said Archive Director Thomas Blanton. "Given the timing - when the intelligence community is under serious scrutiny about its activities - this appears to be an effort to shut down the growth of a vibrant public debate in the print, broadcast and online communities."


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