CIA Sent FBI Agents After, Ended Career Of 19-Year Employee Over A FOIA Request For Historical Documents
from the open-and-transparent-retaliation dept
It wasn’t even whistleblowing, although that too can destroy careers and lives. It was a FOIA request, made by someone who knew exactly which documents he wanted released.
His CIA career included assignments in Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq, but the most perilous posting for Jeffrey Scudder turned out to be a two-year stint in a sleepy office that looks after the agency’s historical files.
It was there that Scudder discovered a stack of articles, hundreds of histories of long-dormant conflicts and operations that he concluded were still being stored in secret years after they should have been shared with the public.
To get them released, Scudder submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act — a step that any citizen can take, but one that is highly unusual for a CIA employee. Four years later, the CIA has released some of those articles and withheld others. It also has forced Scudder out.
“Historical documents of long-dormant conflicts and operations.” Scudder dared to ask for these documents, and the CIA cut him loose. It also sent another federal agency after him — the FBI.
On Nov. 27, 2012, a stream of black cars pulled up in front of Scudder’s home in Ashburn, Va., at 6 a.m. FBI agents seized every computer in the house, including a laptop his daughter had brought home from college for Thanksgiving. They took cellphones, storage devices, DVDs, a Nintendo Game Boy and a journal kept by his wife, a physical therapist in the Loudoun County Schools.
To date, only his daughter has received her laptop back. Every other computer remains in the hands of the FBI, despite the fact that no charges were ever pressed and despite the fact that many of the documents Scudder asked for have been released by the CIA in the interim. More from his request list are due to be released in the near future.
The CIA avails itself of a wide array of FOIA exemptions, but its reluctance to publish historical documents is just baffling — and is most likely a result of the agency’s long-running adversarial relationship with transparency. It’s been noted here before that the CIA has used the often-abused b(5) exemption to withhold documents over five decades old (dealing with the Bay of Pigs invasion), claiming that the release of the “sensitive” documents would “confuse the public.”
Despite Scudder’s efforts, the flow of historical CIA documents will only decrease in the future. The office charged with declassifying historical documents has been closed, deemed expendable by the agency in the face of budget cuts. This workload will be routed through the agency’s FOIA office, creating even more incentive for the CIA to stonewall requests.
Scudder never did anything his superiors thought was wrong until after he attempted to free these historical documents. Everything the agency never took issue with during his previous 18 years of employment — like personal call infractions and the possession of photos (taken by Scudder in his position as “official CIA photographer”) deemed “classified” — was suddenly yet another reason to force him out. It’s been clear for a long time that the government doesn’t care much for whistleblowers. It also seems to have something against transparency, even concerning documents of historical interest only.
Scudder did nothing criminal. He just did something the agency didn’t like. And for that, he lost his job and clearance. So, it’s not just whistleblowing that can get you destroyed. It’s also holding the government to its own transparency standards — something that isn’t remotely criminal but is apparently completely unforgivable.