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.

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Filed Under: assassinations, cia, executive order 12333, foia, transparency


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  • icon
    Jojo (profile), 4 Mar 2021 @ 9:59am

    “Assassinations are illegal.”

    When people are killed, they die.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 4 Mar 2021 @ 10:04am

    "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"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2021 @ 10:13am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 4 Mar 2021 @ 10:31am

    Doublethink...
    We don't assassinate people, because that would be wrong.
    To quote Bob Ross sometimes the world has 'happy little accidents' where leaders we'd really like to see removed from power just have an accident.
    We can't explain it or where all of our resources went, just know we used them as required by law. Trust us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2021 @ 10:33am

    CIA: We could tell you, but then we'd have to kill you ;)
    JM: Heh heh. Good one :)
    CIA: :|
    JM: Hm? OH.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2021 @ 10:38am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2021 @ 10:46am

    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.

    Um... not "will be". "Is continuing to". from TFA:

    The case has made its way to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. It’s ongoing, ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 4 Mar 2021 @ 11:04am

    Love to see someone without a badge try that one

    Defendant: Your Honor while I may be accused of withholding incriminating documents that would demonstrate my guilt from the prosecutor my reasoning for this is simple: that evidence would be of illegal actions.

    Judge: And...?

    Defendant: That's it, that's the extent of my reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2021 @ 11:18am

    In case the court forces a disclosure, will twitter use their fancy new tag "this material may have been obtained through hacking" to avoid coverage of dirty games by UK and US intelligence? Too bad we have to wait for a few years to see...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 4 Mar 2021 @ 11:32am

    The CIA doesn't do assassinations...

    They do "Early Terminations". You have to use the right terminology. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2021 @ 11:36am

    "that wasn't the question..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2021 @ 1:28pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Mar 2021 @ 4:55pm

    Or they'll just assassinate the guy

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dancer, 4 Mar 2021 @ 7:56pm

    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"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Upstream (profile), 5 Mar 2021 @ 12:02am

      Re: Fifth Amendment

      People have rights. Government agencies have powers. It's an important distinction.

      In other words, the CIA does not have any rights that might be protected by the 5th Amendment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 5 Mar 2021 @ 11:38pm

      ... 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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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