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Media Alerts - American Civil Liberties Union v. Central Intelligence Agency
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March 15, 2013
  American Civil Liberties Union v. Central Intelligence Agency
Headline: D.C. Circuit reverses summary judgment in FOIA drone request

Alert Type: New

Area of Law: FOIA

Issue(s) Presented: Whether the CIA may issue a Glomar response to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act request for records pertaining to the use of drones.

Brief Summary: In January of 2010, the ACLU submitted a FOIA request to the CIA, seeking "records pertaining to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles ... -- commonly referred to as 'drones' . . . -- by the CIA and the Armed Forces for the purpose of killing targeted individuals." The CIA submitted a Glomar response, declining to either confirm or deny the existence of responsive records. The ACLU challenged the that response, and, when the CIA did not take any further action, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The CIA moved for summary judgment, asserting that it was exempt from disclosure under FOIA Exemptions 1 and 3, and that, contrary to the ACLU's claim, there had been no public acknowledgment of the drone program that warranted overriding the exemptions. The district court granted summary judgment in favor if the CIA, and the ACLU appealed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed. The D.C. Circuit concluded that the Administration had publicly acknowledged the existence of a drone program on a number of occasions, including speeches by the President, the President's counterterrorism advisor, and the former Director of the CIA. Given the extent of the official statements on the subject, the court concluded that it was not "logical or plausible" for the CIA to contend that merely admitting the existence of documents pertaining to a drone program would reveal any information that had not already been officially acknowledged. The court remanded the case to the district court, with instructions to prepare a Vaughn index or other description of the documents in the Agency's possession.

For the full text of this opinion, visit:

Panel (if known): Garland, Tatel, Griffith

Argument Date: 9/20/2012

Date of Issued Opinion: 3/15/2013

Docket Number:
No. 11-5320

Decided: Reversed and remanded

Case Alert Author: Ripple Weistling

Supervisors: Elizabeth Beske and Ripple Weistling

Counsel, if known: Jameel Jaffer, Ben Wizner, and Arthur B. Spitzer for appellant.

Stuart F. Delery, Ronald C. Machen, Jr., Beth S. Brinkmann, Matthew M. Collette, and Catherine Y. Hancock for appellee.

Author of Opinion: Garland

Author of Dissent: N/A

Circuit: D.C. Circuit

    Posted By: Ripple Weistling @ 03/15/2013 01:03 PM     DC Circuit  

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