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.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “CIA To FOIA Requester: Assassination Attempts Are Illegal So Of Course We Don't Have Any Records About Our Illegal Assassination Attempts”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
19 Comments
crade (profile) says:

"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"

I was thinking more along the lines of "anything we give you on this by definition would incriminate us and we aren’t going to take action to incriminate ourselves regardless of the FOIA"

Anonymous Coward says:

i’m sure it will fall within the "nine exemptions"…

WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett has delivered her first opinion.

The 7-2 decision released Thursday is in a case about the federal Freedom of Information Act, which Barrett explains makes “records available to the public upon request, unless those records fall within one of nine exemptions.” Barrett wrote for the court that certain draft documents do not have to be disclosed under FOIA.

The 11-page opinion comes in the first case Barrett heard after joining the court in late October following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m sorry. I cannot divulge information about that covert assassination agency’s secret, illegal assassination account.

Oh, crap, I shouldn’t have said it was a covert assassination agency. Oh, crap, I shouldn’t have said it was a secret. Oh, crap! I certainly shouldn’t have said it was illegal! Sigh. Oh, it’s too hot today.

Anonymous Coward says:

That is what the catspaws are for

I thought the whole mode of operation of the CIA was cowardly giving money and equipment to some sort of nutjob or scoundrel through an embassy, betraying them, start a needless war. Then they cry foul and bawling like it is a world tragedy once their sixteen at most backstabbers get shot or blown up in their embassy by the same people they gave funds and guns and betrayed. Ignoring that they were already responsible for mass death and suffering of millions in the region and act like their war criminals were saints.

Dancer (profile) says:

Fifth Amendment

This was just a subtle reminder issued by the CIA that they don’t have to provide evidence of criminal actions that can be used against them in court. By reason of the 5th Amendment the CIA is not required to admit to actions that are illegal and FOIA does not override the US Constution. Not a denial, just an indirect invocation of 5th amendment rights. Next step is a lawsuit in order to get a judge to render an official decision that CIA is required to self incriminate in spite of the constitution

This won’t protect CIA from congressional or DOJ action, but it was a polite way of saying “we don’t disclose our covert operations”

Dancer says:

Fifth Amendment

This was just a subtle reminder issued by the CIA that they don’t have to provide evidence of criminal actions that can be used against them in court. By reason of the 5th Amendment the CIA is not required to admit to actions that are illegal and FOIA does not override the US Constution. Not a denial, just an indirect invocation of 5th amendment rights. Next step is a lawsuit in order to get a judge to render an official decision that CIA is required to self incriminate in spite of the constitution

This won’t protect CIA from congressional or DOJ action, but it was a polite way of saying “we don’t disclose our covert operations”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: ... Applies to people, not government agencies

That’s… not how it works. At most I could see individual people working at an agency invoking the fifth should someone go digging to uncover the (possibly literal) bodies but if entire agencies could invoke the fifth then it would be impossible to keep them in check or provide any sort of oversight, as they’d simply refuse to answer any questions that might incriminate the agency.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...