Govt Wants More Time to Respond to CIA Drone FOIA Case

Government attorneys yesterday asked a court for an extension of time to respond to two Freedom of Information Act lawsuits seeking disclosure of records pertaining to “alleged targeted lethal operations” conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency, including the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.

The attorneys’ request seems to portend a possible change in the government’s persistent refusal to acknowledge the widely reported fact of the CIA’s use of drones in targeted killing operations.

“Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. has personally directed us to seek this additional time to allow the Government to finalize its position with regard to the sensitive national security matters presented in this case,” the Justice Department attorneys told the judge.

“Given the significance of the matters presented in this case, the Government’s position is being deliberated at the highest level of the Executive Branch.”

At issue are two FOIA lawsuits brought by the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union.  The request for an extension until May 21, 2012 was granted by Judge Colleen McMahon.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has just released its 2011 report on FOIA litigation and compliance.  Among other things, the report notes that the so-called “Glomar” response — by which an agency refuses to confirm or deny the existence of responsive records — was invoked by the government in three cases that were decided in 2011.  In each of those cases, the court ruled in favor of the government.

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