CIA To FOIA Requester: Assassination Attempts Are Illegal So Of Course We Don't Have Any Records About Our Illegal Assassination Attempts
from the heads-up,-cops:-excessive-force-is-illegal-so-we-have-never-deployed-excessive-f dept
The CIA has delivered a rather curious response to a records requester. J.M. Porup sent a FOIA request to the agency asking it for documents about its rather well-documented assassination attempts and received a very curious non-answer from the US’s foremost spooks.
The CIA’s response to the question about assassinations wasn’t a denial that it had engaged in such activity. It just explained that such activity is illegal: “Please refer to Executive Order 12333 which describes the conduct of intelligence activities, citation 2.11, which pertains to the prohibition on assassinations,” the brief response from the CIA read.
No Glomar. No “no records found.” No complaints that the request was too burdensome. No invocation of national security exemptions. Just this, which basically says, “Hey guys, assassination is illegal.” And, of course, it is. But that hasn’t stopped the CIA from engaging in assassination attempts.
The Church Committee exposed this (along with a long list of other violations by government agencies) back in the 1970s. In fact, one of the smoking gun moments of the Church Committee hearings was the production of a non-smoking poison dart gun developed by the CIA. And, as Matthew Gault points out for Vice, the CIA spent years trying to make a Fidel Castro death look like an accident.
The Agency attempted to lace Castro’s shoes with thallium salts in an attempt to make his hair fall out, developed a special hallucinogen it planned to spray on him during a live broadcast, and created a pen that concealed a hypodermic needle full of poison it planned to use against Castro.
And that’s just assassination attempts targeting this particular politician. The CIA has global reach and endless potential. That it has been mostly ineffective is beside the point. The CIA has created records detailing its assassination attempts. Citing an Executive Order forbidding government employees from engaging in assassination attempts is a non-starter, especially when there’s already documentation in the (regular) history books.
Now, if we want to grant the CIA more credibility than it actually deserves, we can read this Executive Order citation as a barely coded message: of course the CIA doesn’t have records pertaining to assassination attempts because what government agency in its right mind would do anything with inculpatory documents other than feed them to the nearest shredder? That’s the best case scenario: the CIA has been illegally destroying documents detailing its illegal activities.
The worst case scenario is the CIA has plenty of documents on hand but is choosing to hide behind an Executive Order that forbids the things the CIA has already done and, may in fact still be doing.
The answer is, of course, fuck right off with this. J.M. Porup will be suing the CIA over these documents, which will at least force it to drop its Executive Order pretense and engage this request a bit more honestly. At that point, it will have access to a bunch of (slightly more legitimate) FOIA exemptions. But until it’s willing to address this more honestly, it can’t expect “well, no, that would be illegal” to be a satisfactory answer. Courts aren’t going to be receptive to this particular strain of bullshit, even if they’ve been willing to grant a whole lot of leeway on the national security front historically.