Classified records

"Citizenfour" filmmakers move to dismiss federal lawsuit

Tom Isler | Commentary | February 13, 2015
February 13, 2015

The makers of Citizenfour, the Oscar-nominated documentary film about Edward Snowden, have moved to dismiss a federal civil lawsuit that alleges they aided and abetted the “illegal and morally wrongful acts” of Snowden.

Free press groups petition Attorney General on behalf of journalist James Risen

Emily Grannis | Newsgathering | News | August 14, 2014
August 14, 2014

More than 100,000 people, including 20 Pulitzer Prize winners, signed a petition submitted to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder today urging the administration to rethink its policy of subpoenaing journalists to reveal their sources.

Seven representatives of free press organizations announced the delivery of the petition at the National Press Club this afternoon and called on the administration to drop its threatened subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen.

Risen has been fighting since 2007 to protect a confidential source he used in writing a book about the Central Intelligence Agency, and he joined the panel at the press conference today.

Seventh Circuit closes portion of hearing on document access in terrorism suspect case

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Secret Courts | News | June 5, 2014
June 5, 2014

After 30 minutes of public arguments, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit called a closed-door “secret hearing” on Wednesday in the U.S. government’s appeal of an Illinois district court decision to open certain surveillance records to defense attorneys with top security clearances.

The three-judge panel ordered everyone without sufficient security clearance out of the courtroom, including reporters and the attorneys to defendant-appellee Adel Daoud. Daoud, who the government has suspected of terrorist activities, was charged with attempting to ignite a bomb at a Chicago bar in 2012.

In the public part of the hearing, a U.S. attorney argued that disclosure of surveillance records could harm national security. Judge Richard Posner then ordered the secret meeting, clearing the courtroom of everyone except those with proper security clearance, namely a U.S. attorney and FBI and Department of Justice officials.

Intelligence agencies defend new review policy

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | May 12, 2014
May 12, 2014

Under increasing public scrutiny over a new pre-publication review policy, the Office of the Director National Intelligence released a statement claiming the media has "misconstrued" the policy, but open government advocates aren't so sure.

In April, DNI put in place a policy that, among other things, prohibits current and former ODNI personnel from citing in books and publications to information that has been leaked to the public.

"The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security," the policy states.

The policy goes beyond prohibiting officials from releasing classified information and extends the prohibition even to citing news reports about leaked information.

George W. Bush directs relatively broad release of presidential records

Michael Rooney | Freedom of Information | News | April 29, 2014
April 29, 2014

Former President George W. Bush has instructed the National Archives to release nine categories of documents from his presidency to the public, a much broader directive than expected.

POLITICO reported last week that Bush signed a letter to the Archives three years ago allowing the keeper of presidential records to release, among other things, informational and factual memoranda, talking points on policy decisions, and recommendations about whether to sign legislation. POLITICO obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act request.

"The relatively expansive directive stands in contrast to Bush’s approach to the public’s right to know while he was in office," POLITICO noted.

Appeals court rules government must release drone memo

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | April 25, 2014
April 25, 2014

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Department of Justice must release a memo on the legal basis for using drone strikes to kill American citizens abroad.

The New York Times made Freedom of Information Act requests in 2010 for opinions or memos from the Office of Legal Counsel "that address the legal status of targeted killings" and those OLC memos analyzing when it would be legal for U.S. military or intelligence agencies to target a U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist.

Federal court upholds classification of treaty materials sought under FOIA

Aaron Mackey | Freedom of Information | News | June 7, 2013
June 7, 2013

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the government could withhold a document under the Freedom of Information Act on national security grounds, saying that a lower court improperly second-guessed an agency’s decision when it ordered the document’s release.

NYT v. DOJ, No. 13-422

April 22, 2013

The New York Times Company and the American Civil Liberties Union sought records under the federal Freedom of Information Act detailing the U.S. government’s policies for when it can conduct drone strikes and when it can kill a U.S. citizen. In particular, the Times and the ACLU sought memos prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel, which provides legal advice to the President. After the government refused to release the records, the Times and the ACLU sued.

Federal courts have power to review classification decisions, government brief confirms

Monika Fidler | Freedom of Information | News | November 28, 2012
November 28, 2012

Government attorneys confirmed on Tuesday that federal courts have the right under the federal Freedom of Information Act to review agency decisions to classify documents when invoking the law's national security exemption.

Government argues FOIA would provide sufficient access to Manning court-martial documents

Emily Miller | Newsgathering | News | July 10, 2012
July 10, 2012

The federal government asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces on Monday to become the third court to deny the public access to military court documents in the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning. The government’s argument: the Freedom of Information Act is the proper method to obtain the materials.