Apparently a federal court of appeals didn’t think that the Department of Justice’s argument that the CIA had no “intelligence interest” in drone strikes carried out by the United States government and the refusal to even admit in court that the program exists, was either believable or plausable. That nonsense ended today. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled today in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union request for information about the CIA’s drone program.
CIA Drone Strikes Case: Court Finds It Not ‘Plausible’ That Agency Has No Role
by Ryan J. Reilly, Huffington Post
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court has reversed a lower court’s decision (pdf) that dismissed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA, ruling on Friday that it was neither “logical nor plausible” for the government to contend the agency had no interest in drone strikes.
“It is hard to see how the CIA Director could have made his Agency’s knowledge of — and therefore ‘interest’ in — drone strikes any clearer,” the ruling states. “And given these statements by the Director, the President, and the President’s counterterrorism advisor, the Agency’s declaration that ‘no authorized CIA or Executive Branch official has disclosed whether or not the CIA … has an interest in drone strikes,’ … is at this point neither logical nor plausible.”
Court Rejects CIA’s Drone Secrecy Arguments Because Obama, Brennan & Panetta Made Statements
by Kevin Gosztola, FDL The Dissenter
Judge Merrick B. Garland wrote in the decision the question before the court was whether it was “logical or plausible” for the “CIA to contend that it would reveal something not already officially acknowledged to say that the Agency ‘at least has an intelligence interest’ in” drone strikes.
“Given the extent of the official statements on the subject, we conclude that the answer to that question is no.”
A statement by President Barack Obama, made during a Google+ Hangout in January 2012, statements from then-counterterrorism adviser John Brennan during a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center on April 30, 2012, and remarks made by then-CIA director Leon Panetta at the Pacific Council on International Policy in 2009 were all cited as “official acknowledgments that the United States has participated in drone strikes.” The acknowledgments made it implausible and illogical for the CIA to maintain “that it would reveal anything not already in the public domain to say that the Agency ‘at least has an intelligence interest’ in such strikes.”
“The defendant is, after all, the Central Intelligence Agency,” wrote Garland.
As the judge noted, Obama has “publicly acknowledged that the United States uses drone strikes against al Qaeda.” Brennan made statements that left no doubt that “some agency” operates drones. “It strains credulity to suggest that an agency charged with gathering intelligence affecting the national security does not have an ‘intelligence interest’ in drone strikes, even if that agency does not operate the drones itself.”
This is the press release from the ACLU:
Court Rules that CIA Cannot Deny “Interest” in Drone Program
March 15, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court ruled today that the Central Intelligence Agency cannot deny its “intelligence interest” in the targeted killing program and refuse to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests about the program while officials continue to make public statements about it.
“This is an important victory. It requires the government to retire the absurd claim that the CIA’s interest in the targeted killing program is a secret, and it will make it more difficult for the government to deflect questions about the program’s scope and legal basis,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, who argued the case before a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Appeals Court in September. “It also means that the CIA will have to explain what records it is withholding, and on what grounds it is withholding them.”
The ACLU’s FOIA request, filed in January 2010, seeks to learn when, where, and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how and whether the U.S. ensures compliance with international law restricting extrajudicial killings. In September 2011, the district court granted the government’s request to dismiss the case, accepting the CIA’s argument that it could not release any documents because even acknowledging the existence of the program would harm national security. The ACLU filed its appeal brief in the case exactly one year ago, and today the appeals court reversed the lower court’s ruling in a 3-0 vote.
“We hope that this ruling will encourage the Obama administration to fundamentally reconsider the secrecy surrounding the targeted killing program,” Jaffer said. “The program has already been responsible for the deaths of more than 4,000 people in an unknown number of countries. The public surely has a right to know who the government is killing, and why, and in which countries, and on whose orders. The Obama administration, which has repeatedly acknowledged the importance of government transparency, should give the public the information it needs in order to fully evaluate the wisdom and lawfulness of the government’s policies.”
Today’s ruling is at: aclu.org/national-security/drone-foia-appeals-court-ruling