For release Tuesday, 
August 8, 2000
For more information:
Tom Blanton (Archive) 202 / 994-7000
Tom Susman/Todd Richman (Ropes & Gray) 202 / 626-3900

ARCHIVE WINS FREEDOM OF INFORMATION RULING VERSUS CIA
Federal Judge Rejects CIA’s Attempt “Neither to Confirm or Deny”
Existence of CIA Biographies of Former Communist Leaders

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WASHINGTON D.C., 8 August – U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has overruled the CIA’s claim that it can neither confirm or deny the existence of CIA-prepared biographies of nine former Communist leaders of Eastern European countries, seven of whom are now dead.

The judge last week granted the National Security Archive’s motion for partial summary judgment against the CIA’s “Glomar” claim, named after a lawsuit over the ship Glomar Explorer in which the courts allowed the CIA neither to confirm or deny information sought under the Freedom of Information Act.  Courts have rarely, if ever, overruled the government’s Glomar claims.

The Archive filed its FOIA request for the biographies in May 1995, which CIA promptly refused to confirm or deny.  The Archive appealed this refusal, but the CIA denied the appeal in October 1995.  Represented pro bono by the law firm of Ropes & Gray, the Archive filed suit on May 13, 1999, combining the biographies issue with the issue of the CIA’s refusal to release its internal histories of 50-year-old covert actions in Iran and Italy, even though three Directors of Central Intelligence had promised to do so.

Judge Kollar-Kotelly found that the CIA had already admitted the existence of the biographies in a detailed article declassified in 1994.  The judge wrote:  “To hold that the CIA has the authority to deny information that it has already admitted would violate the core principles of FOIA without providing any conceivable national security benefit.  Indeed, national security can only be harmed by the lack of trust engendered by a government denial of information that it has already admitted.” (emphasis added) [Memorandum Opinion, July 31, 2000, p.17]

Archive director Tom Blanton said, “The CIA has wasted thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money covering up information that was already public.  It’s a sad commentary on CIA’s behavior that it has taken 14 months of litigation to get a common sense outcome.  As the judge noted, the CIA is only harming national security with absurd stonewalling like this.”

The Archive filed an additional motion last week, challenging the CIA’s secrecy claims on the Iran and Italy histories (the legal papers and exhibits are posted on the Archive’s Web site, at http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/ciacase/index.html).  The Archive’s legal team is led by Thomas Susman, partner at Ropes & Gray and one of the co-authors of the 1974 Freedom of Information Act amendments while serving as a Senate staffer.  Susman is assisted by Ropes & Gray associate Todd Richman, and by Archive general counsel Kate Martin.


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