Court Orders Expedited Handling of FOIA Request on Leaks

12.04.06 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

A federal judge ordered (pdf) the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency to respond within 30 days to a Freedom of Information Act request from reporter Joshua Gerstein for a copy of records regarding unauthorized disclosures of classified information (“leaks”).

Gerstein, a reporter with the New York Sun, had requested all “criminal referrals” regarding classified leaks filed since 2001; all responses to such referrals from the Justice Department; damage assessments of the unauthorized disclosures; and various other related records.

The CIA and NSA had granted Gerstein’s request for expedited processing but then failed to produce any records for eight months. Nor did they offer a justification for their dereliction. [Correction: CIA and NSA denied the request for expedited processing.]

Judge Maxine M. Chesney of the Northern District of California therefore ordered the agencies “to produce all non-exempt records and non-exempt portions of records that are responsive to Gerstein’s FOIA requests” within 30 days.

In a separate ruling, Judge Chesney also ordered (pdf) the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the FBI to respond within 30 days to similar requests from Gerstein regarding leaks.

Neither order precludes agencies from invoking lawful exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act and withholding documents accordingly.

See “Reporter Wins A Court Battle With Government,” New York Sun, December 4.