CIA Also Scolded By Court For 'Twisting The Factual Record' And Withholding Documents
from the guess-they-were-getting-lonely dept
So much of the attention about our abusive intelligence agencies has focused on the NSA. Even the FBI has been seeing some sunlight as its abusive practices have been revealed. But, amazingly, the CIA has been rather unscathed by all of this, even if the revelations of the intelligence black budget showed that the CIA was actually getting more money than the NSA (something most people thought was not true). However, in a story that has received not much attention, McClatchy reporters recently wrote about the CIA getting smacked around by Judge Beryl Howell in a DC district court (yes, that Beryl Howell).
Howell was not impressed by the CIA’s attempt to keep certain documents under wraps:
In a recent decision, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell denounced several of the CIA’s legal arguments. At one point, she accused the CIA of a “shameless twisting of the factual record.” Other assertions by the agency, she called “dead wrong” and “implausible.”
The specific quote on the shameless twisting of the factual record concerned the CIA’s attempt to portray a non-profit that had requested documents under a FOIA request as a for profit organization, because it sought funds on its website. This is similar to our recent report of the FBI arguing that FOIA service Muckrock wanted documents for commercial reasons. Basically, it looks like they’ll look for any excuse. Of course, given the smackdown Judge Howell gave the CIA over this, the FBI may want to reconsider its letter to Muckrock:
The CIA appears to conclude that NSC is a for-profit entity based on the fact that “its website appears to solicit paying customers.”…. The mere earning of income, however, is not at all an indication that an entity is organized for profit. Even nonprofit organizations must pay their bills. The government, of all entities, should know that the difference between a for-profit corporation and a non-profit organization is not whether the entity earns income (or even whether it earns income at a profit). Rather, “[i]n contrast to a for profit corporation, a non-profit organization must utilize its earnings to finance the continued provision of the goods or services it furnishes, and may not distribute any surplus to the owners.” …. The CIA’s shameless twisting of the factual record in this case to portray their assignment of rights position in a better light falls short of the level of representation that this Court expects of a United States government agency. The CIA should know better than to make such an obviously unfounded argument, particularly in light of the many allegations of bad faith that have been leveled by the plaintiff in these cases, including allegations that prompted a nonfrivolous motion for sanctions.
Yes, we recognize that the intelligence community’s default mode is to keep things secret. But that doesn’t mean it gets to misrepresent and lie when confronted with a basic FOIA request. You expect a culture of deception to rise up in agencies whose main purpose is to deceive, but that’s exactly why we need more transparency and strict oversight of their activities — and that’s something that we’ve fallen well short of achieving.